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 tonight at CenturyLink Field with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
In the 86th minute, Zakuani checked into 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 NBCSN 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.”
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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 last season.
It marked the first time Seattle had scored first in 10 games dating to May 9.
Seattle doubled the lead in the 64th minute, when Eddie 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 non-bright 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 next Sunday at New York.
86th minute: For the first time since April 22, 2011, Steve Zakuani has checked into an MLS match, coming on for Mauro Rosales. Huge ovation from the crowd.
79th minute: GOAL Colorado. Goal by Cummings, with assists to Zapata and Castrillon. Seattle, 2-1.
72nd minute: Seattle's first sub: Montero in for Johnson.
64th minute: GOAL Seattle. Team-high eighth goal from Eddie Johnson, forcefully heading in a cross from Rosales, who gets his sixth assist. Sounders, 2-0.
Johnson also picks up a yellow card for removing his shirt in goal celebration.
52nd minute: GOAL Seattle. Alvaro Fernandez heads in a corner kick by Mauro Rosales. After scoring, immediately hops reader board and plants bit hug on redy Montero, a reserve so far. Seattle, 1-0.
Second half: ... has begun. No substitutions.
Seattle took seven shots to one by Colorado, and put three on goal to none by Colorado.
Seattle won 65.1 percent of the duels. However -- according to the stats -- the Rapids had 51.8 percent of the possession. I'm waay skeptical of that one.
Through 40: Sounders not lacking for energy. No lacking for chances. Still lacking goal, however.
Through 30: Still scoreless. Play maybe equalizing a bit after big Sounders start.
First 20 minutes: Sounders still having the best of everything except the scoreboard, which remains scoreless.
First 10 minutes: Sounders swarming, stringing together a lot of passes and looking dangerous. But nothing in.
Kickoff: We're under way. Rapids in white/maroon. Sounders in rave/blue.
Introductions: Mullan booed every bit as loudly as he was in his first visit in April.
No introduction for Zakuani, since he's not among the starters. However, he's drawing a lot of attention from fans.
Lineups: For Sounders: GK Meredith; D Johsnsson, Parke, Ianni, Burch; M Caskey, Alonso, Rosales, Rose, Fernandez; F Johnson. Reserves: Ford, Carrasco, Cato, Hurtado, Montero, Scott, Zakuani.
This marks Zakuani's second time on the 18-man gameday roster since suffering his leg fractures at Colorado on April 22, 2011. He hasn't appeared in an MLS match since.
Colorado starters: Pickens; Freeman, Wynne, Moor, Zapata; Larentowicz: Mullan, Rivero, Castrillon, Smith; Casey. Reserves: Ceus, Marshall, Nane, Thompson, Edu, Cascio, Cummings.
Arrival: It is a picture-perfect day at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders will try to shed that pesky nine-game winless streak against the Colorado Rapids -- the club directly behind them in the Western Conference playoff race.
A few reminders: the unusual game time of 8 p.m -- although we're hearing actual first kick will be around 8:20. Coverage on NBCSN and the usual radio outlets.
We'll keep this post open for pregame, in-game and postgame information, and hopefully your comments. We'll also have updates on Twitter @donruiztnt.
I'll be back with more as soon as I know it. First up might be those game-day lineups and the issue of whether Steve Zakuani is included.