Steve Zakuani has Arsenal blood
Seattle beat San Jose, 2-0 yesterday. Steve Zakuani scored a goal and assisted in the second, as the Sounders maintained the best start in MLS history for an expansion team. In that game, goalie Kasey Keller broke the MLS record for the most minutes played without conceding a goal.
The Congolese winger, a London transplant is turning out to be a key player for Sigi Schmid's aspirations and is justifying Seattle's faith in picking him first in the MLS draft as he decided to forgo the last two years at the Univ of Akron. As a Generation Adidas underclassman player, Zakuani fits into Seattle's salary cap as a developmental player, which will save the club money.
Steve Zakuani was a standout at the Univ of Akron soccer team, scoring 20 goals and racking up 47 points, on the way winning Soccer America's College player of the year award. He was also the runner up for the MAC Hermann Trophy awarded to the best intercollegiate soccer player. The Zips coach Caleb Porter acknowledges that Zakuani has scary talent.
However, if Zakuani had his way he would still be in London where he grew up in the Highbury area, round the corner from Arsenal where he developed his skills playing in their youth teams for five years till the age of 15. He credits the club for laying a solid foundation and giving him invaluable international experience.
"They preached final third effectiveness at Arsenal. I would always hear things like "pass with a purpose" and "take the defenders on." Those things were drummed into me from an early age."
Interestingly enough he went to White Hart Lane School which was just across the Tottenham stadium. He would attract a lot of negative attention with his Arsenal gear but he said there were enough Arsenal supporters in his school because of its success, so during heated arguments he did not find himself fighting alone.
Amongst his contemporaries were Kerrea Gilbert, Gavin Hoyte, Mark Randall, Jay Simpson, and Henry Lansbury who are now part of Arsenal reserves. His dream was to become part of the senior squad. It all came came to an end when a letter arrived saying he no longer had a future in the club. The huge disappointment led to Zakuani almost quitting playing the sport altogether. He was also laid low by a serious knee injury that saw him unable to play for 18 months. His career was resuscitated when he moved to the Independent Football Academy where his talent was spotted by a Univ of Akron scout.
He still follows Arsenal and roots for them. He also looked upto Freddie Ljungberg, his Sounders team mate, while training at Arsenal. Ljungberg, of course captured the imagination of the Gunner fans with his breakaway speed down the wings, spectacular goals, and bright red stripe in his hair. Seems like Zakuani is well on his way to becoming a fan favourite too with his distinct hair designs, blazing speed down the left, and already two goals and two assists in just his third start.
He also contributes to the ESPN rookie diary and comes across as an articulate, well spoken athlete.