RENTON – Midfielder Steve Zakuani was among the Seattle Sounders who opened preseason training Friday indoors at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Zakuani participated in all drills with his teammates and even capped the opening short-field game with a goal.
However, he also played with a noticeable limp, indicating the unfinished business of his comeback from leg injuries that cost him most of the 2011 season.
“I’m happy to be playing again,” he said. “ That part makes me happy because obviously it definitely means I’m on that home stretch, the last run. But the frustrating part is realizing how far behind I am – not just from the group, but my own self before I got injured. There’s so much more work to do.”
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Zakuani would not speculate on how much longer a full recovery might take.
His coach wouldn’t either.
“I think he’s probably 65-70 percent in terms of playing with the group there,” Sigi Schmid said. “ We have no real timetable on it. We’d just like to see progress each week.”
Zakuani suffered a fractured right tibia and fibula on April 22, and his recovery has been complicated by compartment syndrome, a serious condition that can lead to additional muscle and nerve damage.
His return Friday overshadowed the arrival of several newcomers who practiced for the first time as Sounders. Perhaps most notable of those was goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, brought in as the replacement for All-Star Kasey Keller of Olympia, who retired at the end of last season.
“The first day of practice is always to come in and to build your body, to make a good practice and to start the new season with a good feeling,” Gspurning said. “ In the game, we saw that we are a good-playing team. So, yeah – let’s start the season. It’s good to feel the ball again, and it’s time to work.”
Gspurning was one of several Sounders who made a good early impression on Schmid.
“(Midfielder Christian) Sivebaek scored a couple of goals, showed that he could hit the ball, score from distance – I thought he was OK,” Schmid said. “I thought (defender Marc) Burch – who was coming off of foot surgery as well, so we wanted to be a little careful with him – for his first real practice I thought he looked all right, spraying the ball around. I thought Gspurning was good. The young guys – the game was probably a little more hectic, but I thought there were some guys who had some good moments there as well.”
The Sounders practiced in two sessions: younger players first, then veterans. They will use the same format when training resumes this morning.
The play of the day might have come from rookie forward Babayele Sodade. The Sounders’ second pick in the recent SuperDraft curved a sizzling early goal into the top right corner. Sodade later revealed that he is included on the 30-man preliminary roster for Canada’s Olympic team. Also scoring a goal Friday was midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. After practice, Alonso said a primary club goal this season is to win a playoff series for the first time. Schmid said he hasn’t named a captain to replace Keller. O’Brian White (leg) is behind Zakuani in his recovery and is primarily doing low-impact work on a bike or elliptical machine. A previously unannounced name in camp is veteran goalkeeper Andrew Weber, formerly of the San Jose Earthquakes. Players who didn’t arrive in time for the first day of camp were supplemental draft pick Jason Banton from England, who is expected today, and Cordell Cato of Trinidad, who is expected Monday. Schmid said there are about 35 field players expected in camp, and about 26 will make the final roster. He said the first cuts will come before Jan. 30, when the club begins the Arizona segment of its preseason training.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer