Steve Zakuani has a picture in his mind of a player wearing a No. 11 Sounders FC jersey and what that player is capable of doing.
On the field Friday for his first training session of the 2012 season, he was frustrated that the player on the field at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center couldn’t do what the player in his mind had done.
“I’d get the ball and try to do something that came naturally before, but I can’t do it,” Zakuani said. “Right now, I’m not able to do it.”
Zakuani has been marking his time away from the game with each passing Friday.
This week will make 39 weeks since his life changed with one tackle at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, broke his tibia and fibula in his right leg. His recovery was hindered by compartment syndrome, a serious condition which often leads to amputation, after his surgery that night.
He may still be several weeks or even months from returning to the pitch in a competitive match, but Friday’s session was another in a long line of steps to get him back playing the game he loves.
“It’s mixed feelings. Obviously I’m happy to be playing again, to some degree. It definitely means I’m on that home stretch,” Zakuani said. “The frustrating part is realizing how far behind I am, not just from the group but from my own self before I got injured. There’s still so much work to do.”
Zakuani had originally expected to have a lighter session in his first day on the field in 2012, but instead was put into the full training without limitations. The coaching staff asked him to push hard in the session, allowing recovery to come through a lighter session on Saturday and a day off on Sunday.
And while he was thrilled to be back on the field, he conceded afterward that it wasn’t all he had hoped it would be.
“I think he has a good feel of how far he’s come and how far he’s still away. I think he was a little frustrated at the end because he was hoping he might be closer, but I was actually pretty happy,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He knows what he needs to do now.”
Zakuani had 14 goals and 10 assists through his first two MLS seasons and was well on his way toward improving that output again with two goals and two assists through five games in 2011 before his season was cut short by the horrendous tackle.
That was the Steve Zakuani he sees in his mind’s eye. Inching closer to that image motivates him and has him excited about each passing session.
“I’m over the moon. It’s been a long journey,” he said. “But I want to get back and play, so I am looking at what I need to do to get back in the position to get back and play in an actual game, which is way off where I am right now. That’s the frustrating part, but it’s a good frustration.”