MLS preseason: Timbers winger takes on former team Seattle

2014-02-08T00:00:00Z MLS preseason: Timbers winger takes on former team SeattleBy Dave Ord
Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star
February 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Steve Zakuani finds himself in a different shade of green these days.

And no it doesn’t have anything to do with envy or how he looks around the gills.

Over the offseason, the 25-year-old winger shed the Rave green (think neon) of Seattle Sounders FC for Timbers green (i.e., forest) of the Portland Timbers.

After five years with Seattle, Zakuani was selected by Portland in the Major League Soccer re-entry draft Dec. 12.

The re-entry draft is for players who are out of contract or have had their options declined.

The Northwest clubs will start the 2014 version of their rivalry tonight at 6 in an MLS preseason match at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium.

Houston will face San Jose at 3 p.m. in the opener of today’s doubleheader.

Zakuani was a mainstay in the Sounders lineup for his first two seasons. Early in the 2011 season, he suffered a broken leg on a challenge from Colorado’s Brian Mullan. His tibia and fibula were fractured, and 15 months were lost.

In Zakuani’s first match back, Seattle took on Colorado.

After Seattle’s win, he hugged and exchanged jerseys with Mullan. Zakuani played just eight MLS regular-season matches over the past two seasons, managing a goal and two assists.

“I spent some great years in Seattle,” said Zakuani, who was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“It was the team that took me out of college and I spent five very good seasons in Seattle.

“The way I look at it things come to end and it’s a new beginning, a new chapter. Now I play for Portland, I’m going to give everything for Portland.

“I don’t think about Seattle anymore. That chapter is closed. It was a great chapter, but I’m only focused on Portland.”

He and the Timbers are also focused on getting him back to full speed after Zakuani’s sports hernia surgery.

“When you have injuries the most important thing you need to do is be patient,” Zakuani said. “You can’t rush these things because once you do, you will be set back. … I’m exactly where I wanted to be, maybe even doing better than I thought.”

His new challenge includes an old face. Portland coach Caleb Porter was Zakuani’s coach at University of Akron.

“Obviously, I was looking forward to playing with the players in this group and with Caleb Porter once again,” Zakuani said.

“It’s been fun. It’s bringing back memories from college. It’s been exciting integrating into the team right now and getting used to doing things the Portland way.

“It’s been an easy integration. … I think (Porter) has grown a lot as a coach and, obviously, I’ve grown as well as a player since college. That was one of the things that made me excited to come here, to work with him again. Because I know he can get the best out of me and I look forward to the way his teams play.”

It’s the same game and the same intensity, just in a different shade of green.

Corner kicks

The CD Guadalajara development team will play in the final of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, it was announced Friday. The team will play the MLS club with the most points after the first three days of the tournament. The March 1 match will kick off at 6 p.m.

The Chivas development team is composed of young prospects from one of Mexico’s most popular teams.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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