In a 90 minute competition, five minutes can make or break a team. But on Saturday night, five minutes meant more to the Sounders faithful than any five minutes in club history, outside of maybe Kasey Keller’s final match. The crowd was roaring when the man of the match ran on the pitch. And they roared. And roared. And roared. For you see, this man had not seen the pitch in an MLS match since April 22, 2011. It was on that day that the man of the match Steve Zakuani was felled to a horrific broken leg by an unsporting and uncalled for tackle from Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan.
The always popular Zakuani stepped on the pitch for the first time in MLS acton in 15 months. Some thought in April 2011 that Zakuani might never see action again. Some thought Mullan deserved a harsher punishment for his actions than the 10 game suspension and $5,000 fine.
In an ever dramatic fashion, though, Zakuani stepped on the field, beginning his road back to a starter, against the Colorado Rapids with Brian Mullins on the pitch. There was no thought of revenge, no crowd pleasing retribution for 15 months of rehab. You see Steve Zakuani is what many others in professional sports are no longer. A professional.
“I have said from day one that I do not have any issues with him (Mullan). I forgave him a long time ago, but I think it is good for the public to see, for closure. Now I think that he can go on with his career and I can start to do the same.”-Steve Zakuani
After the match, Zakuani and Mullan sought each other out. They exchanged jerseys. They showed each other the ultimate sign of respect.
“I know Brian came up to me and we shook hands. We really didn’t exchange words, but I saw Brian was emotional at that point. But I didn’t see that they had exchanged jerseys. Like I said, I coached Brian. I drafted him. I know where he is at his heart and I know this situation has truly bothered him as well for a long time. So maybe that’s a good situation for both of them to have accomplished that.”-Sigi Schmid
And after five plus minutes of the roaring crowd, the game ended in 2-1. Seattle earned a victory in more than one way.