BY SPNW Staff 07:00AM 04/14/2012

Sounders await visit of foe who hurt Zakuani

Colorado’s Brian Mullan, who broke Steve Zakuani’s leg in a match last season, comes to Seattle for the first time since his controversial tackle drew a 10-game suspension.

Steve Zakuani was carted off the pitch April 22, 2011, after a reckless tackle by Colorado's Brian Mullan that broke Zakuani's leg and has kept him out since. / Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

MATCH: Colorado Rapids (3-2-0, 9 points, 3rd, West Conf.) at Seattle Sounders FC (2-1-1, 7 points, 5th, West Conf.). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 8th (Sounders lead 4-2-1). TV: KONG 6/16. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH RADIO: La Gran D 99.3 FM.

Sounders FC wraps up the first phase of the 2012 season at CenturyLink Field against the Colorado Rapids Saturday in a matinee match certain to have club supporters venting all manner of wrath at Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan, whose vicious tackle April 22, 2011, on Seattle’s Steve Zakuani in the third minute resulted in Zakuani suffering a horrendous fracture to his tibia and fibula.

Zakuani still hasn’t played since Mullan leveled him, an act which earned Mullan a red-card ejection ($250), a $5,000 fine and a nine-game suspension. With the red card also carrying a one-game suspension, MLS banished Mullan for 10 games, the stiffest punishment handed out by the league since 2007, when former Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark also lost 10 games (and a $10,000 fine) for kicking Dallas FC’s Carlos Ruiz.

Brian Mullan

Despite the severity of Zakuani’s injury, Mullan said post-game, “It’s a tackle I’ve done hundreds of times, and I’d probably do it again.”

As Sportspress Northwest’s Art Thiel explained in a post earlier this week, Mullan made that statement without knowing the severity of Zakuani’s injury. Mullan has since expressed remorse. He has also spoken to Zaukani about the incident and there are apparently no hard feelings.

The Rapids awarded Mullan a multi-year contract after the season, and he’s back with them this year, having played in five matches, all starts. He has yet to score, and has one assist.

Saturday will mark his first match at CenturyLink Field since forcing Zakuani to the sidelines for a year.

Colorado (3-2-0, 9 points) stands third in the West after losing 2-0 to Real Salt Lake last week. The Rapids have one victory and two losses on the road, and have yet to defeat the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.

Colorado coach Oscar Pareja attack has been balanced with seven goals coming from six different scorers, as well as six assists from five different players. Forward Omar Cummings leads with two goals on 16 shots while defender Kosuke Kimura leads with two assists.

Colorado has been strong offensively, accumulating 18 shots in a 2-0 win over Chicago on April 1 and 17 shots in a 2-0 win over Columbus March 10. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens has posted two shutouts and 18 saves, with a season-high five stops against Columbus.

Veteran Jeff Larentowitz, the team’s 2011 MVP, is also expected to present the Sounders with a significant challenge. The seven-year MLS veteran has 20 goals and 11 assists in his career, including 11 goals over the past two seasons.

New Colombian midfielder Jaime Castrillon has a goal and an assist, and has started all five games.

Colorado will be without striker Conor Casey, still recovering from an Achilles injury.

SERIES: Dates to May 23, 2009, when the Sounders and Rapids played to a 2-2 draw in Denver. Fredy Montero and Nate Jaqua provided the Seattle goals. The Sounders have dominated the series, owning a 4-2-1 advantage with two wins last season. Seattle has won all three home contests against the Rapids, outscoring Colorado nine goals to four, and has also won the previous three meetings. Seattle has scored multiple goals in four of the past six games. Only once has Colorado held Seattle scoreless, and the Sounders have a five-goal aggregate advantage in the series despite taking 17 fewer shots.

LAST MATCH (Sounders, April 7): Marc Burch, who substituted for Alvaro Fernandez in second-half stoppage time, banged a header off the crossbar in the 92nd minute and the Sounders settled for a 0-0 draw with D.C. United at RFK Stadium. Burch’s header came within inches of winning the game for Seattle. The Sounders had numerous scoring opportunities, none better than Burch’s, but couldn’t capitalize in front of an RFK crowd of 15,651. The Sounders picked up one point and has seven points in the Western Conference race.

LAST MATCH (Rapids, April 7): Real Salt Lake opened the first of three Rocky Mountain Cup matches in 2012 with a 2-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Colorado Rapids. Strikers Fabián Espíndola – who tied RSL’s all-time scoring record with his controversial strike – and Álvaro Saborío each hit the back of the net en route to the win.

SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES

  • Striker Fredy Montero leads all players with four goals and five assists in the Seattle-Colorado series, putting seven of his 15 shots on frame.
  • The best five-game start in Sounders history came in the inaugural season (2009) when Sounders earned nine points through the first five matches (3-2-0). In 2011 –Seattle’s best regular season — the club had to wait until the fifth game for its first win, and earned just five points in its first five matches.
  • Sounders FC is 6-4-4 all-time in April, going undefeated (3-0-2) in 2011, and the nine April goals scored last season equaled the output of the first two seasons combined. Seattle’s last April loss occurred April 25, 2010, at Toronto FC.
  • Patrick Ianni, the only Seattle defender to have started all four matches this season, helped Seattle blank opponents twice and allow just one open-play goal. Seattle is 24-14-12 when Ianni starts and the club is 30-15-17 in Ianni’s 62 appearances.
  • Ianni is one of three players to have played all 360 minutes this season. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso have also played every minute. Forward Fredy Montero has played all but one minute.
  • With the return of Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson last Saturday, Seattle’s injury situation is this: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (pelvic sprain) was available on the bench for Seattle, and Mauro Rosales (knee sprain) and Adam Johansson (hamstring strain) are making progress. Rookie Andrew Duran (knee surgery) has returned to the training field and midfielder Steve Zakuani (leg fracture) played against outside competition for the first time last week.
  • Sounders FC Reserves kick off the home season Tuesday evening, welcoming Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers. The match is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Starfire Stadium. The match is the first of five MLS Reserve League home games for Sounders FC, who opened the season with a 1-1 draw at Vancouver April 2. Last year, Seattle finished first in the Western Conference, posting an 8-1-1 record.
  • The Sounders announced this week that the May 5 match against the Philadelphia Union, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., will begin at 1:30.

COACHES: Sigi Schmid became first head coach of Seattle Sounders FC Dec. 16, 2008, and is in his fourth year. Born in Tübingen, Germany, Schmid relocated with his family to the U.S. in 1956, and to Torrance, CA., in 1962. He was a four-year starter at UCLA (1972-75) and graduated with a B.S. degree in economics in 1976.

Schmid later earned a M.A. in business administration from the Southern California. A certified public accountant, Schmid coached the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1999 through 2004, winning four major competitions: 2002 MLS Cup, 2002 MLS Supporters’ Shield, 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2001 CONCACAF Champions Cup. He coached the Columbus Crew from 2006-08, winning the MLS Cup in his final season.

In 2009, under Schmid’s direction, the Sounders became the first expansion team to reach the MLS playoffs since the 1998 Chicago Fire. The Sounders also won the U.S. Open Cup in Schmid’s first season. They added their second and third U.S. Open Cup titles in 2010 and 2011.

Oscar Pareja: Rapids named Pareja, a former MLS Best XI player and experienced assistant coach, as the club’s head coach Jan. 5. Pareja joined the Rapids from FC Dallas, where he served as the club’s reserves coach and academy director. In nearly six years at Dallas, Pareja developed one of the top youth academies in the country, which contributed six players to the FC Dallas first team. The native of Medellín, Colombia, first joined the FC Dallas staff as an assistant to Steve Morrow from 2005-07, before becoming an assistant with the U.S. under-17 national team in 2007-08. After nearly a year with U.S. Soccer, Pareja returned to Dallas to become the club’s Director of Player Development.

COMING UP: The Sounders, in a slow April, have just one more match remaining after playing Colorado. They travel to Chicago April 28 for a match against the Fire.

Seattle Sounders FC 2012 Schedule / Results

(2-1-1, 7 points, MLS; 1-1 CCL)

Date Opponent Time TV W/L Score Rec.
3/7 *Santos 7:00 Fox Soccer W 2-1 1-0
3/14 *Santos 5:00 Fox Soccer L 6-1 1-1
3/17 ^Toronto FC 7:00 KONG W 3-1 1-0
3/23 ^Houston 7:00 NBCSN W 2-0 2-0
3/31 ^San Jose 7:00 KONG L 1-0 2-1
4/7 ^at DC United 4:30 KING D 0-0 2-1-1
4/14 ^Colorado 1:00 KING
4/28 ^at Chicago 5:30 KING
5/2 ^LA Galaxy 7:00 KING
5/5 ^Philadelphia 1:30 NBCSN
5/9 ^at FC Dallas 5:30 KING
5/12 ^Real SL 7:00 KING
5/19 ^at Vancouver 1:00 KING
5/23 ^Columbus 7:00 KING
5/26 ^at Chivas 7:30 KING
6/16 ^at Montreal 4:30 KING
6/20 ^Sport KC 7:00 KING
6/24 ^at Portland 2:00 ESPN
6/30 ^vs. New England 4:30 KING
7/4 ^at RSL 7:00 KING
7/7 ^Colorado 8:00 NBCSN
7/15 ^at New York 1:00 ESPN
7/18 #Chelsea FC TBD TBD
7/28 ^at Colorado 6:00 KING
8/5 ^vs. LA Galaxy 7:00 ESPN2
8/11 ^at San Jose 7:30 KING
8/18 ^vs. Vancouver 1:00 KING
8/25 ^at Chivas 7:30 KING
9/2 ^at FC Dallas 4:00 KING
9/8 ^Chivas TBD KING
9/15 ^at Portland 12:30 NBC
9/23 ^San Jose 7:00 KING
9/29 ^at Vancouver 6:00 NBCSN
10/7 ^vs. Portland 6:00 ESPN
10/21 ^vs. FC Dallas 6:00 ESPN
10/28 ^at LA Galaxy 6:00 ESPN

*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=International friendly


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