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Nate Jaqua, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani All Train With Sounders

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Nate Jaqua made just three MLS starts last season while recovering from a groin injury. He appears to be close to returning from a similar injury this year.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Nate Jaqua made just three MLS starts last season while recovering from a groin injury. He appears to be close to returning from a similar injury this year. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Nate Jaqua, Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans all fully participated in training with the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday, improving chances that the trio could be ready to return to action on Friday. As is usually the case, players nearing a return to the lineup train hard early in the week to see how they react. If there are no setbacks, all three could be in the lineup against the Houston Dynamo.

Of the three, only Zakuani has appeared in a game this season. The left winger started in the Sounders' season opener, playing 84 minutes against the LA Galaxy despite suffering a groin strain less than a week earlier. After that game, though, he was not even healthy enough to travel for the second game against the New York Red Bulls.

Jaqua missed the first half of last season while recovering from a groin injury, and has been battling a similar injury throughout preseason. In light of Blaise Nkufo's sudden departure, Jaqua's return has been especially anticipated.

"Nate in his one full year where he played the full year in 2009 had career-highs in goals and assists," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said at Tuesday's training session. "Last year when we probably pushed too many minutes on him right through our Open Cup streak and so forth in that period of time he scored four goals in five Open Cup games, I think it was. He’s shown an ability where he’s a more mature player. He’s an improved player over what he was when he was a younger player in the league with Chicago and went from L.A. back to Houston and so forth. He’s a guy we feel can score goals. He’s a guy that we feel is a good compliment to what Fredy Montero brings. He’s a guy who can get on the end of crosses and bring a little bit of that size element to us up front."