COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Victory can sometimes come at a terrible cost. On Friday night, the Sounders FC experienced just how pricey a win can be when they squeezed past the Colorado Rapids, 1-0.
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Seattle earned their first shutout of the season and Fredy Montero scored his first goal of 2011. However, midfielder Steve Zakuani suffered a fracture to his tibia and fibula in the third minute of the game and was scheduled to undergo surgery in Colorado. He will likely not return to Seattle until next week.
“It’s a major blow when you take that blow at the beginning of the game. The guys psychologically have to get through that hurdle and try to refocus on the game,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “We tried not to really talk about it at halftime, but you definitely felt it hanging in the air in the room. You knew it was on everybody’s mind. We tried to take care of the business at hand and continue to play.”
Zakuani was defending in his own end when Brian Mullan came in hard with a tackle that earned the Colorado midfielder a red-card ejection.
Zakuani was quickly surrounded by his teammates as he lie on the ground awaiting treatment from the medical staff. He was loaded on to a stretcher and wheeled off the field.
“It’s a terrible feeling. He’s a great player and a great friend,” said defender Patrick Ianni, Zakuani’s roommate on the road. “You could see all of the guys on the field were devastated by it.”
Alvaro Fernandez would replace Zakuani in the lineup and the Sounders played up a man for the remainder of the match. But they were so emotionally crushed by the incident that it hardly seemed they had an advantage.
Still the Sounders were able to get on the board in the 19th minute.
Brad Evans won the ball and whipped it to O’Brian White up the right side. The striker carried it upfield, occupying two defenders before laying off to Mauro Rosales in the middle. The Argentine vetearn then passed to Montero at the edge of the 18, and the forward hammered a shot that snuck between the legs of goalkeeper Matt Pickens and into the net for the 1-0 lead.
The goal proved to be enough on a night when the Sounders had their thoughts elsewhere. Colorado controlled much of the possession despite playing down a man and the two teams both finished with nine shots on the match.
“They did a good job of possessing the ball and making us chase it. … You might have thought they had the extra man,” Schmid said. “Unless you’ve been on the field when something like that has happened – it takes a lot out of you emotionally and it takes a lot out of you mentally, so I can’t fault my guys too much for that.”
Despite controlling the action, Colorado were unable to do much to challenge goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who finished the night with two saves and his first clean sheet of the season.
“To get three points was what we came here to do. We were able to get it and we made it hard for ourselves, or a lot harder than it needed to be,” Ianni said. “I think we have a lot to take from the game and learn from.”