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Seattle's Zakuani minimizes distractions with 2013 in view

TUKWILA, Wash. – The Twitter-verse will just have to get along without Steve Zakuani.

The Seattle Sounders attacker has sworn off the social media platform for the 2013 season, as well as other potential distractions such working on his fledgling music career.

“I have to focus,” Zakuani explained to reporters following the first day of training camp on Monday. He jokingly added, “Those things are addictive, I don’t know why. Ask Eddie Johnson.

“I don’t want to have any distractions. That’s something I made to myself to just give my all to the team. I think it’s going to help me in the long run.”

As has been well documented at this point, Zakuani missed the bulk of the past two seasons while recovering from a broken leg he suffered early in 2011. Although he was able to play eight regular-season matches last year, he never looked entirely like the player who was poised to join MLS’ elite prior to his injury.

READ: With Montero gone, Sounders contemplate next move

The first glimpse that Zakuani was close to regaining his form came in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship against the LA Galaxy. Although that proved to be the Sounders’ final match of the season, he was among their best players and had a field day against Sean Franklin.

“That gave me a lot of confidence,” Zakuani said. “I got back to feeling how I did before. Obviously, you get away and work hard. Last year I came into camp and I couldn’t do any of this. Now it’s fine.”

Not only is Zakuani mentally right, but he also says he’s in the best shape of his life. During preseason fitness testing, Zakuani turned in his best performance ever. Once among the skinniest players on the team, he appears to have added some muscle to his slight frame.

The timing couldn’t be better. Not only will Zakuani turn 25 next month – often seen as the age soccer players enter their athletic prime – but the Sounders are looking for someone to help replace Fredy Montero’s lost production.

“I think he wants to step up,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think he wants to take more of a leadership role on the field and maybe even off the field as well. That’s a good step for him. He’s at an age now where that’s the next stage of his development.

“It’s not just soccer, but your psychological development. It’s figuring out what’s important. All great athletes go through that whether your name is Kobe Bryant or Steve Zakuani.”