TUKWILA, Wash. — A collective shudder ran through CenturyLink Field on Wednesday.
As Steve Zakuani lay on the pitch, grabbing his face, his surgically repaired right leg obviously in pain, many feared the worst.
Turns out, it wasn’t such a big deal. Although he initially left the field, Zakuani was able to play for a few more minutes before calling it a night in the 78th minute.
“I woke up the next day and didn't have any pain,” Zakuani said on Friday. “Today I was able to train a bit. I asked if I can jump in training because I didn't want to just do a regen. I wanted to push myself two days after a game to see if I can do it, and I managed to do it. I wasn't really concerned.”
Zakuani explained that the good thing about having a steel rod in his leg is that it makes re-breaking it extremely unlikely. The downside is that it can get bit sensitive, especially when the weather turns cold and rainy the way it is now.
“It's a lot tougher than it is in summer,” he said. “In summer, I don't notice it. If you get hit there, it can be painful.”
Considering what Zakuani has gone through in the past 16 months -- a compound fracture in his right leg, compartment syndrome that complicated the recovery and finally returning -- it was perhaps understandable that outside observers were a little more worried.
Upon checking his Twitter timeline, Zakuani realized the extent to which he had scared some of his fans.
“Yeah, I was really surprised,” he said. “I didn't mean to do that. People were like, 'Not again.' I'm like, 'No...' I just generally felt a little bit of a hit and came out.”
Part of why people are so concerned is that losing Zakuani now would be particularly cruel, as he’s starting to look more and more like the player that was considered one of MLS’s rising stars before the injury.
His goal on Wednesday was his second since coming back, but unlike the first one this was no gimme. Zakuani showed good tactical awareness to stay onside, used his speed to get behind the defense and then put the ball away by confidently cutting it back and firing a shot from 12 yards out.
“He’s making a lot of good progress,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s doing well enough that he’s going to be a part of our playoff activity, for sure, and then when he has this offseason now to work on getting ready for the season in 2013. I think Steve can get back to where he was.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.