Steve Zakuani (Photo courtesy of SoundersFC.com)
Steve Zakuani's return is essentially a formality at this point. After playing in his first match of any kind on Sunday and then practicing in full on Tuesday, the 24-year-old midfielder sounded more upbeat than I can remember him being ever since he first returned to training.
In talking to him after Tuesday's training, he seemed like his old self. He was upbeat, smiling and talking about how he has rediscovered his love for the game.
"I started playing when I was 7 or 8 and my dad would take me to training every day," Zakuani told me. "It was just fun. There were no results involved, no salary, no TV, no nothing. I’ve got that back. I think sometimes you lose that along the way, but I’ve found my first passion again."
When, exactly, Zakuani will return is still very much an open question, of course. Last Sunday's game was against Gonzaga University, which is hardly like playing against MLS competition. He knows he'll have to work his way from coming off the bench in the Reserve League to playing significant minutes and, finally, to making his MLS debut.
The Sounders have pointedly declined to give any kind of timeline for when all this will happen. The Sounders Reserves' next game will be on April 10 against the Portland Timbers. It doesn't sound likely that Zakuani will play in that game. The next Reserve League game is on April 16 against the LA Galaxy at Home Depot Center, which seems like a good time to start looking for him.
But that's probably starting to get ahead of ourselves. The takeaway from my conversation with Zakuani is that he will return, someday. That day is starting to get closer and closer.
"Whenever Sigi lets me play, I’m ready," Zakuani said. "I don’t have anything to hold me back.
"I might not play at the level before the injury. Is my speed there? No. Am I doing 60-yard dribbles? No, not yet. But the only way I’m going to get there is by playing games."
This should be music to our ears, as well as a relief.