The Seattle Sounders huddle up prior to their 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids.
Courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC

Zakuani incident difficult, but Seattle moving on

SEATTLE – By the time the Sounders players learned of Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan’s 10-game suspension for his tackle on Steve Zakuani, it was clear they had already moved past the incident.

READ: Mullan receives additional nine-game suspension

When asked if the club had needed to know Mullan’s punishment for a red-card challenge before it could have closure, Sigi Schmid quickly quashed those thoughts.

“I’m not a big believer in that,” Schmid said. “We’re not here for ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ That’s not our philosophy.”

From players to coaches, the suspension was viewed with detachment. Schmid, Nate Jaqua and Kasey Keller all cited earlier statements from MLS Commissioner Don Garber as justification for the harshness of the sentence.

Nevertheless, the acknowledgement that no length of suspension would speed Zakuani’s recovery was evident.

“It didn’t affect me,” Keller said of the announcement. “As a player, I never like to see guys not be able to play and not be able to do that stuff. But at the same time, I understand why [the league] went strong. It’s something in the game they want to take out of the equation.”

In the fast-paced world of professional sports, the players had already turned their focus to this Saturday’s game against Toronto FC. While it’s possible that Steve Zakuani may attend that match, Schmid indicated his midfielder would probably stay immobile to give the healing process its best chance of success.

Schmid and Keller have been clear this week that the team’s 1-0 performance against a 10-man Colorado team was substandard. With the emotional shock of the injury mostly behind, Schmid hopes his team will bounce back at home against a retooled TFC squad.

“We want to move on, so going out and playing a game helps you move on,” Schmid said. “It was difficult. I don’t think people truly realize how difficult the game was last [Friday]. Everyone saw that you’re playing a man up, so you should have just steamrolled them. But you’re trying to get over that emotional shock.”

General manager Adrian Hanauer summed up the team’s feelings in a statement released Thursday morning.

"In situations such as this, the game is robbed of its brilliance,” Hanauer wrote. “Steve Zakuani is a young, talented and highly entertaining player. He will be missed, and we all wish him a full and speedy recovery.

As a league, the Commissioner has stated his intention to be more protective of dynamic, attacking players. Hopefully this suspension is a step in the right direction. However, the harsh reality of this situation is that no length of suspension will bring back Steve to action any faster.”

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