The Sounders’ winless streak is over, and so is Steve Zakuani’s long road back to Major League Soccer.
Seattle snapped a nine-game winless streak Saturday at CenturyLink Field with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
In the 86th minute, Zakuani checked in to the game. It was his first MLS appearance since suffering right-leg fractures April 22, 2011, against these same Rapids.
“You couldn’t ask for more than that,” Zakuani told NBCSports after the match. “We got a win. It would have been nice to get a clean sheet – a shutout – but I came back, and now we need to build from this. We have a huge game on Wednesday and another (next) Sunday, and I hope we can put some wins together.”
When Zakuani reported in, he was applauded by the crowd of 39,060 – and also by Colorado midfielder Brian Mullan, the man whose reckless tackle fractured Zakuani’s tibia and fibula at Colorado last season.
After the final whistle, Zakuani and Mullan swapped jerseys.
“The eruption of the crowd tonight was as loud as I think I’ve ever heard here,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was fantastic. I was still caught in the emotion of the game, so I didn’t allow myself to think a lot about Steve getting back out there, and the period of time, and maybe the appropriateness of coming back onto the field against Colorado. But I’m sure he would have enjoyed some more touches. But he’s got the first one out of the way. It’s a pretty emotional time because he’s come through a lot and suffered a lot with his injury.”
The Sounders opened in an unconventional lineup with Eddie Johnson as the lone forward, Alex Caskey and Andy Rose among the midfielders, and Fredy Montero on the bench.
They dominated the first half, stringing together passes, seeming energized, and getting chances – but no goals.
That changed in the 52nd minute, when Alvaro Fernandez headed in a corner kick from Mauro Rosales. It was Fernandez’s first goal of the season, after scoring nine in 2011.
It marked the first time Seattle had scored first in 10 games dating to May 9 – the last time the Sounders tasted victory in a 2-0 win over FC Dallas.
Seattle doubled the lead in the 64th minute, when Johnson forcefully headed in a cross from Rosales. It was Johnson’s team-leading eighth goal of the season, and Rosales’ team-leading sixth assist.
“I thought there were more bright spots tonight than there were nonbright spots,” Schmid said. “I thought our team at times showed very well. It was nice to see (Fernandez) get his first goal of the year off the corner kick. And Mauro and Eddie Johnson’s combination was very similar to the goal that we scored in New England, so maybe there’s a relationship that’s developing there and timing that’s starting to come along there as well.”
Colorado (7-10-1) struck back in the 79th minute on a goal by Omar Cummings.
However, Seattle (8-5-6) hung on, pushing its record to 8-0 when scoring first.
“I guess the rumors of our demise were maybe a little bit premature,” Schmid said. “ The last 15-20 minutes of the game became a little bit hectic, especially when we gave up that goal. I was a little disappointed. We had some chances.”
Schmid said Zakuani’s role going forward will be monitored carefully.
Zakuani said he thinks he is getting close to full recovery.
“I think it’s not too far,” he said. “It’s just a matter of games. I need to get confident. It’s my first time being out in 15 months, so it’s not easy, obviously. I think not too far. I just need more games, more minutes, get comfortable, and I think I’ll be not too far away.”
The Sounders return to U.S. Open Cup play Wednesday, meeting Chivas USA in a semifinal at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. They return to MLS play a week from today at New York.email@example.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt