Steve Zakuani was on the home bench and Andrew Weber was in front of the Seattle goal when Seattle Sounders FC kicked off against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.
It marked the first time Zakuani had been on the game-day roster since suffering a fractured tibia and fibula April 22, 2011. And it was Weber’s first start since coming to the Sounders during the offseason, and his first MLS start anywhere since 2009.
Even after the clubs played to a 1-1 draw before a season-high crowd at CenturyLink Field, those personnel moves remained the major issues of the night.
“Zakuani we felt had been getting closer,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Based on where we were injury-wise and everything else, we felt he was a good option into the 18. One of the reasons (he didn’t play) was because of the physical nature of the game, and the referee really wasn’t protecting players, and I didn’t think that was a good environment to throw him into in the first game.
“ We just felt it was time for (previous starting keeper Bryan) Meredith to look at it from the outside. Weber had been training well after overcoming his ankle injury, and so we felt it was a good chance for him to start. I thought he was pretty good about what he did.”
Weber got off to a rough start, with Kansas City gettting one past him in the eighth minute. It was a strike by Jacob Peterson that deflected off Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
“I don’t think there’s anything really I could have done on the goal,” Weber said. “It hit Ozzie in the leg. I think we had a wall of green in front of us, and I didn’t see it until it comes up and over. We responded real quick.”
That response came in the 15th minute, when Patrick Ianni sent a leaping volley past Jimmy Nielsen from 10 yards. Afterward he called it the best goal he had ever scored in practice, in a game or since he was born.
“It was just a good ball by Mauro (Rosales), and it came a little behind the line,” Ianni said. “ It just kind of snuck through to me. I thought, ‘If it comes all the way through, I’m just going to get good contact on it and put it on frame,’ and fortunately it went in.”
The game was scoreless from there, despite significant chances for both sides.
Weber stretched out to save a Chance Myers header in the 71st minute. For Seattle, Alex Caskey sent a one-on-one shot wide right, and Fredy Montero hit a post in the 89th minute.
Zakuani remained on the bench the whole way. However, after playing in training scrimmages and one MLS Reserve League match, this was his first appearance in a first-team uniform since his injury, and he saw it as another significant milestone.
“It was a good experience for me to get that taste,” he said. “ I’m going to go home really happy because I hadn’t been on the bench for over a year.”
The game extended the Sounders’ winless streak to a club-record-tying six games (0-3-3). However, Schmid said it was a good response after the 4-1 loss at Montreal on Saturday.
“You’re going to have streaks,” he said. “You’re going to have good streaks; you’re going to have bad streaks. We’re in a streak right now that’s not a good streak, but I’m very confident that we’re close to climbing out of it.”
The game was played before a crowd of 46,931. Extra sections of the west side upper deck were opened to accommodate a block of 8,000 tickets purchased by Safeco Insurance and given to employees and Washington Youth Soccer.
The Sounders return to action Sunday afternoon at Portland.
Schmid hinted that Weber will start again, and that Zakuani remains a candidate for playing time. However, midfielder Alvaro Fernandez will miss that game after picking up a late red card Wednesday.