Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani returned to the 18-man gameday roster Saturday in LA for the first time since April.
Now fully over the leg injuries of a couple of seasons ago and the sports hernia problem that sidelined him most of this season, he had this to say today after training.
On how it feels to be back: I’ve been training pretty good for a while, so I kind of expected to be making my way toward the game-day squad. Obivously it has been a while: I haven’t played since April, so that was a good part of it. Now obviously the next step is to start getting my match fitness on the pitch.
On Sigi Schmid’s plan to use him in spot duty: It’s hard to come back after a few months and play 90 minutes right away, obviously. That’s why when you start a season you do preseason and all that – you start building your fitness. So I’m not 90-minutes fit right now, but the whole way to get 90-minutes fit is to play matches. Training is good for what it is, but you have to play matches to get that game fitness, the sharpness and awareness and finding oyur form on the pitch. It’s just picking up minutes here and there and getting my fitness up. That’s the only way to do it.
On his role down the stretch: I honestly don’t know. From Day One when they brought me to Seattle I just play the role the coaches ask me to play – whatever the team needs at that time. If I have to be just on the 18 and not play, then it’s going to be just like it was on the weekend. If it’s coming off at the end of the game, that’s fine. If it’s starting a game, that’s fine too. Obviously the season has slipped by – most of it – but it is the key part of the year now, and it’s a good time to get healthy. … I can only train hard and leave the rest up to them.
On his hunger to play: For two years. It’s been crazy. Training is fine: That’s enough for me. I know myself pretty well. I know when I’m close to my level. And I’ve trained pretty well for the last two weeks – I’ve been pretty happy with myself in training. I’m coming in ever day, I’m enjoying it, I’m buzzing, and I feel happy again. So that’s been good. And obviously the who point of training is to get on the pitch. But like I said, I can’t control what happens. And to be fair, the team’s been on a great run. I’m happy with what we’ve done. As frustrating as it is to watch, it’s worse if the team is struggling and not winning. But they’ve done well: We’ve been winning and that’s made it easier. I’ve been happy with how I’m training. I’m happy again with football, and I’ll take it from there.
On if this is a lost season: I can never look at it as a lost year. What I can look at it is sometimes in life you get detours you didn’t plan for. I didn’t plan to come in injured. I came in training camp pretty sharp, played the first few games of the year – I felt good – and then I suffered a muscle injury, and I didn’t plan for that. It would never be a lost year either way, but I do think just in time I’ve got my health back. And I’m not obviously 100 percent yet. I still have some pain and minor things, but not enough to stop me from playing. Whether it’s five, six games and then playoffs and all of that, there’s still enough time to come in and play. Last year was the same story. I came back at the very end, and I played in the last game against LA I think it was, and that gave me a big boost going into the next season. It probably will be a similar story to that.
On his previous leg fractures: My leg is fine. It’ sjust my groin and hernia, and that’s going to take a while. Zach Scott did the same – well, not as bad as mine – but he did an injury like that and had the same surgeon – and said it took him a very long time to be completely over that pain. So I’m kind of in that boat. It’s just something you’ve got to manage. I come in and do a bunch of exercises and jumping, ice bath, anything that needs to be done I’ve been doing.
On Sounders potential at full strength: It’s the best and deepest squad we’ve had in my time here. I can say that, I think just on paper. But the paper don’t play the games, you have to go out and do it – and we have been doing that lately. You can just read off the names on our team, and almost every team would like to have a lot of our players. And we have that and it’s going to be fine in the balance of getting us all on the pitch and in the balance of when you’re out there actually performing. I think if we do that we can have a very fun time in the postseason.