Tonight's 2-1 Reserve loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps has two stories for Seattle Sounders fans. One is much larger than the other. It was the story that caused people to change their plans, to adjust their schedules, to come to Starfire a third straight night. Steve Zakuani is back. Or closer to back. Or however you want to parse the language.
"Today is a great day," Zakuani said to the press post game. "I got to see the fans, the fans got to see me. It's great to be in front of the fans again. It's a bit emotional also, because it's been 13 months. I feel good because I'm going in the right direction."
And the fans did get to see him. There were glimpses of what he was. There was knowledge of what he'll be. There was an attempted chip that was a bit too low. Steve Zakuani wants that attempt back, because he knows exactly what his mistake was. If he gets that same opportunity again he almost certainly makes it. This evening wasn't about performance for Zakuani though.
"Today was more than a result. It wasn't about performance," he said with a smile. "It was crossing off another on a really, really big checklist. I did it so I'm happy. I'm going to go home and tomorrow I'm going to be sore, but it's a really good feeling."
He was clear. It's going to be a long time before you see exactly the same Steve Zakuani. He spent most of the night as a forward. He used a lot of burst speed. It wasn't the same speed, but close. There were a few times he made those endline runs that were his signature in 2010. His crosses were usually low. He's not going to wait until he's 100% to tell Sigi he's ready. He wants to contribute as soon as he can contribute, even in short periods of time. But it will be different.
"The fans are going to have to understand that it's going to be a while before they see me picking up the ball on the halfway line dribbling 50 yards with the ball. If they can understand that it's going to take time, he said, "then it will be good. I need more games like this because that's the only way I'm going to get it back. Training's good, but I need more games. I'm hungry to get into the real thing."
Seattle Sounders fans are hungry too. Several hundred whetted their appetite on a Friday night. They saw the new Steve Zakuani. He's a lot like the one you remember. A man with many friends throughout the league. One who is generous and thanks many for helping him in his time of need. He's also still a man that looks right with a soccer ball a few yards ahead of him so he can sprint on to it. Even if he doesn't think he can yet.