TUKWILA, Wash. — Steve Zakuani’s long road back keeps taking unexpected twists and turns.
Although his broken leg is long since healed, the Seattle Sounders midfielder has been limited to just six appearances this season and has not played since April 20. Since that time, Zakuani has undergone two surgeries on both sides of his groin to repair what the team has called a sports hernia.
“You can’t imagine what the last two years have been like,” he said following Monday’s training session. “Obviously it’s not easy, but all I can do is go every day.”
Making the situation all the more frustrating are the setbacks along the way. When Zakuani first starting experiencing discomfort in April, the thinking was that he just needed a few games off. After an MRI in early June, it was determined that he needed a pair of surgeries that were supposed to keep him out six to eight weeks.
Almost as soon as he returned training, though, he suffered another setback.
“I was a little bit close a couple weeks back, where I felt I was pretty much back, and then I had a bit of a tweak just doing something I’ve done a thousand times,” Zakuani said. “What can you do? You can’t do much about that, so you just have to fight back from it. It’s just coming every day and trying to get my body to feel right.
“When you get surgery on both sides, you can’t really favor one side over another. Both are recovering, so that’s where I’m at. Some days you make giant leaps and some days you kind of stay the same, so you just gauge where you’re at.”
Although Zakuani is back training again, he’s still limited and there’s no timetable for when he might be able to play again.
“He still can’t strike a ball with his left foot,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said on Monday. “Today and at the end of last week, he was able to step up his training again, so hopefully that will be the last thing that will come along and we can make a determination. We still hope that he’s going to be able to contribute this year.”
Despite everything, Zakuani is doing his best to keep a positive attitude. He’s doing his best to stay fit and engaged with the team, even if he admits it’s hard to watch at times.
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“Being able to think up here is never going to go,” he said, pointing to his head. “But having the physical capacity, being pain-free, having the mobility, agility to do what I did. I would come out here when I was 21 and I wouldn’t even warm up. I would just start playing because that’s what my body was. Now I have a different body and I need to come in an hour early sometimes and just do a bunch of exercises to be able to train. That’s just my reality right now.
“I never, ever worry about the football side – I know some people talk about it quite a lot – but I don’t really care about that. I just worry about having the right body to do it. Self-belief and self-confidence are never something I’d lose because I’ve been doing this for a long time. I know once my body is right I’ll be able to play how I played.”