Just six matches remain on the regular season schedule for Sounders FC and the team is on a special run of form, collecting 25 points from its last 10 matches. On Saturday, even while Clint Dempsey was absent with a hamstring injury, Seattle saw the return of Brad Evans from a short-term injury and Steve Zakuani was on the bench for the first time since April, fortifying the team heading into the final stretch of the season.
“I’ve been training pretty good for a while, so I kind of expected to be making my way toward the game-day squad,” Zakuani said. “Now the next step is obviously to start getting my match fitness on the pitch. So it was good.”
Though he didn’t play in the match, Zakuani’s inclusion on the 18-man roster was not insignificant. After playing just 14 regular season matches in a two-year stretch, he suffered a groin injury that required surgery to repair a sports hernia.
At the time, he had one assist through six matches and was an influential piece to Seattle’s attack.
Five months since his last match, he was back in consideration for playing time on Saturday and could provide a boost for Sounders FC in the final stretch of games and in the postseason.
“His ability right now to come off the bench and contribute 15-20 minutes – maybe moreso by the time we get into this weekend – could be very significant for us,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said.
Saturday also saw Evans return to the lineup after missing the previous three matches with a calf strain. The Seattle midfielder and U.S. National Teamer played just 14 minutes, but was explosive and opportunistic. He completed all five of his passes in that time, including one that setup a scoring chance for Lamar Neagle that was headed just wide.
“We needed a little bit of help in midfield,” Schmid said. “Right away when Brad came in, he had two pretty good looks. I think he helped us.”
Evans has three goals and five assists in 20 appearances this season, playing a versatile role across the midfield. Missing those three games was no easy task, but returning to training and to the gameday lineup provided a lift to not only Evans, but the team, as well.
“You just want to be out there with the guys,” Evans smiled. “Especially when the team is playing as well as we are.”
Evans and Zakuani are primed to contribute to the team on Sunday when Seattle hosts the current leaders in the Supporters’ Shield standings, the New York Red Bulls.