Steve Zakuani could be X-factor for Sounders

Sep 7, 2012, 9:34 AM | Updated: 11:05 am

A huge smile was back on Steve Zakuani’s face after he set up the Sounders’ game-tying goal at Dallas on Sunday. It took the popular midfielder 500 days to start and make a difference in a meaningful soccer match.

Zakuani’s devastating broken leg caused by a harsh tackle from Colorado’s Brian Mullan has been well chronicled. The two men embraced earlier this year, bringing closure to the incident. There were still self-doubts for Zakuani about whether he would get close to the player he was before the injury.

“I’ve been in full, unrestricted training since April and I was hit many times, so I have no doubts about that,” Zakuani told me after Thursday’s practice. “It was about can I get back physically to where I was? I think I can do that now.”

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was pleased to see Zakuani contribute to a well-earned road point against Dallas.

“The confidence boost he got from the assist you saw in the ear-to-ear smile,” Schmid said. “That will help him as he moves forward to the next opportunity.”

There should be plenty of chances for Zakuani to get playing time in the coming weeks. Seattle has eight MLS regular-season games left and two more CONCACAF Champions League matches, including a trip to Honduras Sept. 19.

Sounders host Chivas USA Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. Just two weeks ago Seattle routed the Goats 6-2 in Southern California. Schmid told me in the Coach’s Corner show that Chivas is gambling offensively and it sometimes backfires.

“There’s talent for them in the attacking part of the field, but defending is not their first and foremost forte,” he said. “That leaves a little bit of holes in the back for them. The other thing that’s happening is they need points, and they may be playing a little riskier than before.”

Chivas is next to last in the Western Conference table, but has played fewer games than several teams above them. Seattle is currently in third place, nine points behind first-place San Jose.

Schmid told me forward Eddie Johnson is well rested because he did not travel with the club to Trinidad and Texas. Midfielder Mauro Rosales suffered a minor quad injury and might be held out of the Chivas game. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso has been cleared of his minor concussion and should be available.

Forward/midfielder David Estrada, who led Seattle in scoring early this season, is on pace to return from his foot injury in a couple weeks.

The Sounders have also been working out former Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur Gudjohnsen. Schmid is excited about the prospects of adding another experienced goal-scorer to the club with a goal of winning MLS Cup.

Matt Johnson hosts the pregame show at 12:30, while Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller call the action starting at 1 p.m. Saturday on 97.3 KIRO FM.

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Steve Zakuani could be X-factor for Sounders