Zakuani makes huge progress in first start in comeback

Exactly 500 days after a broken leg set back his career, Steve Zakuani made his triumphant return to the Seattle Sounders’ starting lineup. Playing forward in a 4-3-3 setup, Zakuani flashed some of his old form in registered an assist in a 1-1 with FC Dallas on Sunday.

The assist was Zakuani’s first point since April 16, 2011.

“I was just happy we scored,” Zakuani said. “It didn’t hit me until halftime that it was my first start. It was good to get back on the board in terms of an assist, but I was honestly just disappointed that we didn’t get to the half at 1-0.”

Zakuani’s assist came in the 20th minute and gave the Sounders a 1-0 lead. Coming in from the left flank, he used his speed to dribble around FC Dallas right back Zach Loyd and create some space to get to the endline. He then hit a left-footed ball through the goal box that found Mauro Rosales streaking toward the far post. Rosales was able to poke the ball inside the far post.

It was a bit of a role reversal for Rosales, who leads the league in MLS but came into the game with just one goal.

“Steve shows that he still has that explosion, the ability to beat people,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “As he gains confidence, hopefully those kind of opportunities will occur more often in the game. He’s shown that he can still do it. It was a tremendous assist. Now it’s just a matter of gaining game fitness and the ability to do that on a repetitive level.”

The Sounders’ lead was short-lived, though. FC Dallas equalized in the 32nd minute when Blas Pérez was able to get the ball to Jackson at the far post.

From there, FC Dallas mostly had the run of play as the 100-degree temperatures seemed to take their toll on the, who played a CONCACAF Champions League game in Trinidad on Thursday. FC Dallas out-shot Seattle 24-11 and forced Michael Gspurning to tie a season-high with five saves.

None of that could overshadow Zakuani, who is quickly running out of things to check off in his comeback.

“I’m just going to have to keep training and training to get my sharpness back again,” Zakuani said. “The run I made I could have made, you know, 10 times. My fitness was really good and my goal is to be able to do that run a few times each half. That’s what I bring to the team. I just need to play my role.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.