Zakuani in 2010
|Date of birth||February 9, 1988|
|Place of birth||Kinshasa, Zaire|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|2009–2013||Seattle Sounders FC||80||(17)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of October 29, 2014.
† Appearances (Goals).
Steve Zakuani (born February 9, 1988) is a former Congolese association football player. Born in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Zakuani grew up in London playing for the Arsenal youth academy before attending the University of Akron in the United States on a soccer scholarship. In 2008, he was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy and was named Soccer America men's collegiate player of the year.
Zakuani was selected first overall by MLS expansion club Seattle Sounders FC in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year in 2009, and in 2010 had ten goals, and debuted for DR Congo in a friendly. However, in an April 2011 match against the Colorado Rapids he suffered a devastating injury from a broken leg. After a fifteen-month layoff that nearly resulted in amputation, he made his return in July 2012. He failed to recapture his early success, and retired after playing the 2014 MLS season with the Portland Timbers.
He was a fast player who played forward in college and professionally as a winger. His coaches praised his ability to individually take on the opposition while attacking.
Youth and college
Zakuani was born in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and moved to London at the age of four. His father, Mao Zakuani, moved his family there for political and professional reasons after receiving a job offer as a translator. The family switched homes often and lived with extended family for long periods of time. They eventually settled in north London in a neighbourhood with other African families, where Zakuani attended White Hart Lane School.
At the age of nine, Zakuani earned interest from West Ham United's youth program. He later tried out for the youth team of Queens Park Rangers. In 1997, he joined the Arsenal Academy. Zakuani became cocky and brash while not focusing on schoolwork, and he was released from Arsenal by 2002. Zakuani's knee and foot were severely injured in a crash on a moped that one of his friends had stolen. The accident left him unable to play for 18 months. After becoming less passionate about the game and renewing his efforts in school, Zakuani was taken by his teacher and mentor, Paul Goodison, to watch motivational speaker and evangelist Myles Munroe. This was a life changing event for Zakuani, and he recommitted himself to becoming a professional player. Along with Munroe, Zakuani considers John Wooden, Malcolm X, and Jesus Christ to be his heroes. He unsuccessfully tried out to join the senior teams of Queens Park Rangers, Wigan Athletic, AZ Alkmaar, and Real Valladolid shortly after.
He was spotted by the University of Akron at a development centre in north London called the Independent Football Academy. After choosing to attend the university on a scholarship, Zakuani scored six goals in his freshman season with the Akron Zips. This led to a professional offer that summer from Preston North End, but he had promised to return to Akron for his sophomore season. In 2008, he led the nation in scoring with 20 goals and 7 assists in 23 games to become a finalist for the Hermann Trophy. He was only the second sophomore to be named Soccer America's men's collegiate player of the year for the season's efforts.
Zakuani was selected by Seattle Sounders FC as the number one pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft on a Generation Adidas contract. He had turned down other contract offers to sign with Major League Soccer since the Generation Adidas program would allow for him to return to school to finish his education. Zakuani was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year in 2009 after leading all MLS rookies in scoring with four goals and four assists. On September 2, 2009, Sounders FC became the second MLS expansion team in league history (Chicago was first) to win the U.S. Open Cup tournament in their first season. Zakuani was a starter in the championship match.
In his second professional season, he scored ten goals in the regular season to tie for the team lead with Fredy Montero. He was named MLS Player of the Week twice, and also won Goal of the Week twice. He also recorded the fastest goal in Sounders history with his fourth minute tally against the Columbus Crew in a 1–1 draw at Qwest Field. It bettered the previous mark set by Zakuani the season before when he scored in the fifth minute at D.C. United. On October 5, 2010, Seattle won the 2010 U.S. Open Cup final, becoming the first team since 1983 to repeat as U.S. Open Cup champions. Zakuani was again in the starting lineup for Sounders FC in the final. On November 7, 2010, Zakuani scored the Sounders' first ever playoff goal in a 2–1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Sounders' management has encouraged its players to train with teams overseas. During a visit to England after the 2010 season, Zakuani trained with Everton to stay match fit. He received his green card before the 2011 season. This granted him permanent resident status in the US and exempted him from occupying one of the MLS limited international player slot on the club’s roster.
Zakuani scored two goals and had two assists in his first six appearances of the 2011 season. On April 22, 2011, three minutes into a game against the Colorado Rapids, Zakuani suffered a broken leg from a challenge by Brian Mullan, fracturing his tibia and fibula. He underwent successful surgery later that same day, and missed the remainder of the 2011 season.
July 7, 2012, against the Colorado Rapids, Zakuani made his first MLS appearance in 15 months. As a substitute with 5 minutes left of the game, his return was met by emotional and boisterous fans. He seemingly furthered his recovery by assisting on a goal for Mauro Rosales during a 1–1 draw at FC Dallas in early September. On September 22, 2012, Zakuani equalized the score against the San Jose Earthquakes at 1–1 by scoring his first goal in 17 months, but the match ended in a 2–1 loss to the Sounders. He finished the 2012 MLS season with 1 goal in 320 minutes over 8 matches and playing in 3 playoff games.
During the 2013 season, he only made six appearances for the Sounders before going on injured reserve with a sports hernia. He underwent two surgeries, performed on each side of his groin.
On December 12, 2013, Zakuani was selected by the Portland Timbers as the number 2 pick in stage 1 of the MLS Re-Entry Process after the Timbers traded up in order for the opportunity. His pay was cut by $60,000 a year to $120,000 a year while reuniting with Porter, who had since left coaching college ball for professional soccer with Portland. He appeared in the Timbers opening match of 2014 against the Philadelphia Union, coming in as a substitute in the 85th minute. Zakuani scored his first goal as a Timber on August 19, 2014; scoring the opening goal in a 4–1 win over Alpha United in the 2014–15 CONCACAF Champions League. However, Porter spoke sullenly of the player's troubles with injuries after the second leg against Alpha. Zakuani had once been an "electrifying" prospect, but finished the 2014 MLS season with no goals and only three assists.
On October 29, 2014, Zakuani announced his retirement from the game, citing his difficulty in recovering from numerous injuries. Retiring at the relatively early age of 26 brought further attention to his "roller-coaster" career. He wrote a heart-felt blog post regarding his departure from the sport and plans on releasing a book.
In 2009, Zakuani expressed interest in representing DR Congo if the opportunity presented itself. On November 12, 2010, Zakuani accepted a call up for a friendly match against Mali. He played his first 45 minutes of international football in the 3–1 loss. In a 2011 interview with Dan Brennan of Arsenal.com, Zakuani admitted he's eligible to play for DR Congo and England, and will be eligible to play for the United States in a few years. He said "Of the three, I prefer the States as this is where I made my name as a player, but we’ll see how things turn out."
Zakuani was a quick and agile player who liked to take defenders one-on-one. He is right-footed and prefers playing on the left. He played on the left wing in a 4–4–2 formation with Arsenal and was a forward in college before converting to a winger professionally.
Zakuani says that he played with an attractive style he learned at Arsenal's youth academy. While coaching him at Akron, Porter said half of Zakuani's goals were individual efforts of "40-, 50-yard runs and beating three or four guys along the way," and that "Steve Zakuanis don't come around very often." Sounders' coach Sigi Schmid has said that Zakuani was a dangerous dribbler with good speed. A writer for Sports Illustrated described his play as: "Speedy, inventive, and with plenty of flair."
Zakuani has five siblings. An older brother, Gabriel Zakuani, currently plays for Peterborough United in England and is a member of the Congolese national team. Steve considers London his hometown but also considers himself Congolese.
As a teenager in London, he began "mixing with the wrong crowd." Zakuani was distracted from playing football by girls and parties. He said in an interview: "A lot of the people I grew up with ended up in prison, taking drugs, and never made it to university." He has strong feelings about the increase of knife crime in London since one of his friends was killed.
In Seattle, he spent time with his teammates off of the field and had beaten several of them at the Pro Evolution video game. Zakuani enjoys reading and watching African comedies. He also released fee-style raps in advertising and social media.
In 2010, he founded a non-profit organization called Kingdom Hope to run camps and provide scholarships. The project runs camps in the greater Seattle area. Zakuani has said that his ultimate goal is to open an academy to teach life coaching and soccer to teenagers in an effort to be a "bridge between talent and actually making it".
- As of November 3, 2014.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|USA||League||Open Cup||League Cup||North America||Total|
|2008||Cleveland Internationals||USL Premier Development League||11||9||-||-||-||-||-||-||11||9|
|2009||Seattle Sounders FC||Major League Soccer||29||4||4||0||2||0||-||-||35||4|
Seattle Sounders FC
- Steve Zakuani at National-Football-Teams.com
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