BY Stanley Holmes 10:25PM 04/22/2011

Sounders lose Zakuani to horrific injury

Sounders do what it takes to hold on and get the three points but the controversy surrounding the Zakuani foul and broken leg is just beginning to heat up.

Steve Zakuani was carted off the pitch Friday night after a reckless tackle by Colorado's Brian Mullan broke Zakuani's leg. / Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

The Seattle Sounders squeaked out a 1-0 victory in a thriller in Colorado but lost Steve Zakuani to a vicious first-half foul that snapped his leg.

Zakuani had just beaten a Rapids defender when Brian Mullan appeared out of nowhere and just leveled the Sounders’ left winger near the touch line. Mullan’s blatant foul in the 3rd minute caused Zakuani’s leg to break.  He suffered a double compound fracture and immediately went to the hospital and into surgery. He is out for the rest of the season.

The referee immediately issued Mullan a red card and sent him off, just before the Sounders, led by James Riley, would have escorted him off in a less friendly way.

The Sounders went up one player and capitalized shortly after. A counter attack led by O’Brian White racing down the right side with the ball who sent a square pass to Mauro Rosales. He took a touch about 20 yards out, and then dished it to Fredy Montero at the top of the box, who slotted it home for his first goal of the season.

Balance seemed restored. Revenge was extracted the best way possible. All Seattle had to do was pass and move the ball — and retain possession.

But that didn’t really happen. For the next 25 minutes, it seemed Seattle was the team that played with 10 men — not Colorado. The Rapids controlled the ball for large stretches, moving it into Seattle’s territory, forcing the Sounders to chase as if they had fewer players.

The beginning of the second half was much like the first. The Sounders struggled to hold the ball and keep it away from a pressuring Rapids defense. But even though Colorado had more possession, their players mostly lacked any creativity to really create much danger for Kasey Keller. He did have to make several saves that were on frame — but they were mostly routine.

Seattle did create some half chances. Osvaldo Alonso stole the ball at the 40-yard area and then drove up the field. With defenders hanging off him, he tried to feed the ball to White, who was marked tightly by defenders.

Overall, though, Colorado continued to control the possession. Schmid then subbed Erik Friberg for Rosales, who was tiring and was struggling to connect his passes. Leonardo Gonzalez, who didn’t start in his left back position, came on for Fernandez to provide more pressure on the left side and break up plays.

It soon got dicey toward the end of the match as the Sounders tired. Several times Colorado parried multiple shots at Seattle in the box. Seattle’s defense held firm thanks to bodies blocking shots and kicking them out of danger.

Just when the pressure seemed too great, Keller caught the ball and then hucked it 40 yards to Montero. The Colombian dribbled down the right side and then passed it to a surging Alonso who fired too high.

That wasted enough time to kill the game. Schmid got his tactics right again. He managed the game in the final 20 minutes that preserved the three points for the Sounders, however improbable following Zakuani’s horrific injury, the on-field dramas and the altitude.


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