Off-Camera Observations: Steve Zakuani on Sounders FC at Houston Dynamo

After a two-week break from MLS play, Sounders FC meets the Houston Dynamo on Sunday in a match with huge postseason implications (2:00 p.m. PT / ESPN, AM 770 KTTH, El Rey 1360 AM). Here to provide his thoughts on the game is Steve Zakuani, former Sounders FC midfielder and current team broadcaster.

On what to expect from Houston this weekend:

Tactically, they haven’t changed much over the years. Houston is always a tough place to play. They’re a physical team. The ball’s in the air quite a bit when you play against Houston, but they also have a lot of skillful players. They do have some guys that can play, and if they get going, they can be very dangerous.

But I think this game in particular is going to be about them fighting to win. They’re going to do everything they can to win, and it’s going to be important for Seattle to match that intensity. I think Seattle is the more talented team, but they have to match Houston’s fight. Houston’s season is literally on the line. A win for Seattle is huge, but it’s not necessarily do-or-die for the Sounders.

On the importance of Sounders FC’s bye week:

For Seattle, it’s valuable because it keeps everyone healthy, and it really helps the guys that have had injuries here and there. They get time to rest up. It gives the coaching staff a chance to give the players some time off, which is important because you’ve been going week to week, from big game to big game, and you get a chance to take your foot off the pedal.

You know you’re coming back for the final push, so I think it’s going to help Seattle in a lot of ways. They were looking pretty good before the bye week, but I think it was important for them to get healthy and get away for a bit. They can regroup, and now they have to perform in these last couple games.

On Chad Marshall recovering from injury:

Chad is huge to the team. He’s been one of the top defenders in the league since he came in. He won MLS Defender of the Year last season, and he won it before that when he was playing in Columbus. His leadership at the back is important. And then his play – Chad’s going to win pretty much every header that comes his way, and opposing team’s forwards always know he’s there, so he changes the way they play. Chad just puts out a lot of fires.

I think whoever’s standing next to him, whether it’s Brad Evans or Zach Scott, they benefit because of his calming presence. To me, having a player like Chad does a lot for you even before the game begins, just because you know what to expect from him every week.