TUKWILA, Wash. — For at least a half, Steve Zakuani looked like his pre-injury self.
Switching between left midfielder and forward for much of Sunday’s Reserve League match, Zakuani scored a pair of goals to lead the Seattle Sounders to a 3-2 victory over the LA Galaxy. They were the first goals he’s scored in any match since breaking his leg last April.
Perhaps indicating how close he is to being able to contribute to the senior team, Zakuani seemed more bothered by his uneven performance than particularly buoyed by the goals.
“I honestly would rather have had a full 90-minute performance and have not scored than to have just [a quality] 45 minutes,” Zakuani said. “The first half wasn't good. The second half was a lot better and it's good to get goals, obviously, for confidence. But no, I'm more focused on getting my touch right and finding passes, not losing balls and holding the ball – that kind of thing means a lot more to me at this stage. Goals will come.”
His first goal came in the 72nd minute, as he showcased the kind of speed that was his hallmark prior to his injury. Coming in from the left side, Zakuani was able to get behind the defense to receive a through ball from Michael Seamon. He then took a couple touches and then put a right-footed shot inside the far post to tie the score.
Zakuani found the equalizer again in the 83rd minute, this time showing his opportunistic nature by volleying home a corner kick after it was redirected in the goal box.
“The only thing is going to be just getting match fitness and match sharpness, that's all I'm missing,” said Zakuani, adding that he feels he’s regained most of his speed. “Everything else is fine.”
While the 24-year-old may have been feeling better for quite some time, his performance in this game was the first time he really showed just how far he has come.
“I think before the injury, he was a top 10 player in this league,” Sounders reserves coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “I think he can get back there. Once we get him into shape and he’s back to full fitness, he’s going to be back to the sharpness he was prior to the injury.”
This marked the second straight week in which Zakuani has been able to play the full 90 minutes in a reserve match. The next step seems to be putting together two halves as strong as his second.
“I'm fit enough, but the game demands a lot and every game is different,” Zakuani said. “I should be able to do 90 minutes regardless of what game it is, and I'm getting there. My confidence is getting back and the more I get used to being a game situation against different opposition – it takes some getting used to – the more I can do that, the better I'll be.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.