For Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani, Saturday afternoon’s tilt against the Kansas City Wizards will feel like a reunion. Not only will he face good friend and former Akron University teammate Teal Bunbury, but he will also go up against former Arsenal teammate Ryan Smith.
Smith and Zakuani both came up in the Arsenal youth program, playing the exact same position of left midfielder. They didn't play on the same team because Smith was a year older, but Zakuani said his coaches used to tell him to emulate Smith’s game.
Now, several years later, the two players who grew up perfecting their games on the streets of London will face off against each other in a professional match.
“We grew up in the same neighborhood so we grew up being very good friends,” Zakuani said of Smith. “He’s come over here and I think he’s done well. It should be interesting.”
Smith, one of the league’s outstanding newcomers in the 2010 season, has notched one goal and two assists from the left midfield position as Kansas City has started the season with a perfect 2-0-0 record. He began the season in style, notching a goal and an assist in Kansas City’s opening day 4-0 rout of D.C. United. The midfielder has also provided the Wizards with some excellent left-footed free kicks.
In advance of the match, Zakuani has been passing tips on Smith to Seattle’s defense. Barring a positional switch, Smith will be going head-to-head with Seattle right back James Riley.
“I’m telling James his tendencies,” Zakuani smiled, noting that Smith is a very technical player who enjoys using his left foot and does not like being crowded.
Bunbury and Zakuani, who are also one year apart, became very close friends during their year together at Akron. This time, the roles were switched—it was the sophomore Zakuani who tutored the freshman Bunbury. When Zakuani left school for the MLS SuperDraft after scoring an NCAA-best 20 goals in his sophomore year, Bunbury stepped into his shoes and also led the nation in scoring.
“I kind of showed him the ropes. When I left, he took over the mantle,” Zakuani said. “He’s going through what I went through [as a rookie], just a year later.”
Zakuani believes he and the Canadian Bunbury will have a chance to hang out later this week before facing each other on the field Saturday. Bunbury has yet to start a match for Kansas City, but has played in both MLS matches as a substitute and did score in the team’s midweek U.S. Open Cup play-in match.
Notebook: Evans admits to mistakes
Players don’t often get credit for giving good interviews, but Sounders FC midfielder Brad Evans gave a great one in the face of adversity yesterday. Evans was the culpable marker on both of Seattle conceded goals against Real Salt Lake, including the equalizer in stoppage time. Rather than shirking the questions of The Seattle Times, the 24-year old owned up to his mistakes and vowed to do better.
No player likes to give an interview with a subject like that, but Evans handled it professionally. As Sigi Schmid mentioned after practice Wednesday, sometimes goals get conceded in stoppage time over the course of a long season. Additionally, no conceded goal happens in a vacuum—Seattle shouldn’t have given up the corner in the first place.
However, Evans assured with his candor that this won’t become a bigger issue and the team can move forward to prepare for this weekend’s match against Kansas City.