RENTON, Wash. — While one might assume that Steve Zakuani would be overjoyed about returning to full training after nine months away, it was another emotion that ran through his head Friday. The bitter taste of frustration tinged the workout as winger realized just how much work still lies ahead of him.
“It’s mixed feelings,” the Seattle Sounders winger told reporters after training on Friday. “Obviously, I’m happy to be playing again – playing to some degree, and just to be out there with the guys and stuff. That part makes me happy because, obviously, it definitely means I’m on that home stretch, the last run.
“But the frustrating part is realizing how far behind I am, not just from the group, but my own self before I got injured. There’s so much more work to do.”
Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid warned Zakuani about these feelings, telling him that there would be frustrations as he attempts to return from the horrific broken leg injury suffered last April against the Colorado Rapids.
It’s been a long road for the 23-year-old; after the fracture healed, Compartment Syndrome threatened the nerves in his right leg and changed the feeling he has in the foot perhaps permanently.
There’s still no timetable for his return to the field. While Zakuani admitted he was ecstatic to be training, he said that game action is still a long way off, noting that the gap between his abilities before the injury became more pronounced as Friday’s session progressed.
As the club opened the 2012 season with its first official training session, Zakuani assumed his familiar position on the left side of the field during seven-on-seven matches, but began to fatigue toward the end of the session. He also struggled to keep up in post-practice shuttle runs, evidence of the long layoff.
Nevertheless, Schmid saw flashes of the old Zakuani.
“I think he was a little frustrated at the end because he was hoping he might be closer, but I was actually pretty happy with where he’s at,” Schmid said. “He still had an impact: It was great to see him score that final goal [during practice]. It’s been a long time since he’s scored the winning goal at the end of a practice, and it will come. So I was happy with it.”
Zakuani admitted that he’s not going to be able to go full out in Saturday's training session – Schmid is prescribing a one-day-on, one-day-off regimen as his winger regains his trust in the healed limb. Instead, Zakuani will likely jump on the exercise bike or the elliptical when the team hits the training field.