The tackle by Brian Mullan that broke Steve Zakuani’s leg last April 22, was “a sad experience for both of us,” Zakuani said last week.
For Zakuani, the toll was evident: He hasn’t played a league match since that day.
For Mullan, the immediate penalty was a fine and 10-game suspension. And on Saturday he fought back tears as he described the additional toll of that single moment.
“It’s completely changed my game,” he said. “When I made (what he originally called it a routine tackle) I had no idea of the extent of his injury. Right after the tackle, I didn’t even see him. I was swarmed by their team – rightfully so. I had no idea of the extent until I was actually leaving the stadium and the team chaplain told me the extent.”
Mullan, 33, played all 90 minutes Saturday in Colorado’s 1-0 loss to the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
It was his first appearance in Seattle since the incident, and he was booed in pregame introductions and every time he touched the ball.
“Leading up to (the game), ‘apprehensive’ is the best word for it,” he said.
“It’s a lot of great fans in this city. A lot of nerves leading up to the game. I applaud the fans. They did a good job and conducted themselves professionally and consistent with their reputation of being very good.”
Mullan said he had gone through “intermediaries … to set up a face-to-face apology.” He said the meeting hadn’t happened yet, but he was hopeful that it would.
Zakuani said last week that he wishes Mullan well, but doesn’t know if there is anything to be gained from such a meeting.
After the Sounders’ 1-0 win Saturday, Colorado coach Oscar Pareja spoke up for his player.
“I think he is a great professional, things like this are just part of the game,” he said. “I was very proud of Brian today. And to be honest with you, we didn’t talk with Brian at any point in the week about that.”
Despite Mullan’s belief that the tackle changed his approach on the pitch, he received a yellow card in the 87th minute for knocking down Sounders defender Osvaldo Alonso from behind.
Seattle forward Fredy Montero rushed to the scene and had words with Mullan, drawing a yellow card of his own.
“It’s like I feel when you see that kind of dirty play,” Montero said later. “It doesn’t matter who was the player. But for me it was more than (a) yellow card. It was a red card because he was coming from behind. It was a dirty tackle.”
The full transcript of Mullan’s postgame interview is available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org