COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Victory can sometimes come at a horrible cost.
On Friday night, the Sounders FC experienced just how pricey a win can be. Seattle earned their first shutout of the season and Fredy Montero scored his first goal of 2011. However, midfielder Steve Zakuani suffered a horrendous fracture to his tibia and fibula in the third minute of the game. He was scheduled to undergo surgery in Colorado and will not likely return to Seattle until next week.
“It’s a major blow when you take that blow at the beginning of the game. The guys psychologically have to get through that hurdle and try to refocus on the game. We tried not to really talk about it at halftime, but you definitely felt it hanging in the air in the room,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “You knew it was on everybody’s mind. We tried to take care of the business at hand and continue to play.”
Zakuani was defending in his own end when Brian Mullan came in hard with a tackle that earned the Colorado midfielder a red-card ejection.
Zakuani was quickly surrounded by his teammates as he lie on the ground, bravely awaiting treatment from the medical staff. He was loaded on to a stretcher and wheeled off the field, receiving a tremendous ovation from the traveling Sounders FC supporters who were in seats at the adjacent tunnel.
“It’s a terrible feeling. He’s a great player and a great friend,” said defender Patrick Ianni, Zakuani’s roommate on the road. “You could see all of the guys on the field were devastated by it.”
Alvaro Fernandez would replace Zakuani in the lineup and the Sounders were playing up a man for the remainder of the match, but so emotionally crushed by the blow of losing Zakuani that it hardly seemed an advantage.
Still the Sounders were able to get on the board in the 19th minute.
Brad Evans won the ball to O’Brian White up the right side. He carried it forward, occupying two defenders before laying off to Mauro Rosales in the middle. Rosales then passed to Montero coming up the left side and Montero hammered a shot that snuck between the legs of goalkeeper Matt Pickens and into the net for the 1-0 lead.
The lead proved to be enough on a night when the Sounders had their thoughts elsewhere. Colorado controlled much of the possession despite playing down a man and the two teams both finished with nine shots on the match.
“They did a good job of possessing the ball and making us chase it … you might have thought they had the extra man,” Schmid said. “Unless you’ve been on the field when something like that has happened - it takes a lot out of you emotionally and it takes a lot out of you mentally. So I can’t fault my guys too much for that.”
However, Colorado was unable to do much to challenge goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who finished the night with two saves and his first clean sheet of the season.
“To get three points was what we came here to do. We were able to get it and we made it hard for ourselves, or a lot harder than it needed to be,” Ianni said. “I think we have a lot to take from the game and learn from.”
With the win, the Sounders improve to 2-2-3 on the season, running their unbeaten streak to five matches. The Rapids fall to 3-3-0 and are scoreless in their last three.
After picking up four points in their last two road matches, the Sounders will return to Qwest Field to host Toronto FC on Saturday, April 30.
Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (Mauro Rosales, O’Brian White) 19.
Rapids - None.
Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (caution) 81.
Rapids - Brian Mullan (ejection) 3; Caleb Folan (caution) 75.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl, Mauro Rosales (Erik Friberg 74), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani (Alvaro Fernandez 9, Leo Gonzalez 82), Fredy Montero, O’Brian White.
Rapids - Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall (Anthony Wallace 66), Drew Moor, Jamie Smith (Sanna Nyassi 72), Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni (Wells Thompson 68), Brian Mullan, Omar Cummings, Caleb Folan.