In a scenario that played out exactly how MLS would've scripted it, beloved Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani made his return to the pitch 15 months after an awful challenge from Colorado's Brian Mullan fractured of his tibia and fibula. And he just so happened to make his triumphant return in a home match against Mullan and Colorado.
The now 24-year-old Zakuani has maintained an incredibly positive outlook throughout his difficult comeback from the career threatening assault and was quick to accept the apology of Mullan, who was given a 10-match ban and $5,000 fine for what he did. And though Zakuani still has vicious scars (see them here) and it remains to be seen whether he will ever regain his enviable speed, any lingering issues between him and Mullan have been long resolved with the exception of Zakuani completing his hard-earned comeback by playing again.
So with Seattle leading 2-1 in the 86th minute, Zakuani came on as the match's final substitute to a raucous reception on Saturday night. In that moment, Mullan applauded him along with the 39,060 people in attendance at CenturyLink Field. Zakuani went on to get a few touches and make it through his first challenge (which wasn't from Mullan) before the final whistle blew on Seattle's win. And when it did, after a bit of anticipation-building delay, Zakuani and Mullan found each other in the maze of handshakes to share a hug and swap shirts as the cameras focused in on them and the commentators waxed poetic about closure.
In a post-match interview with NBC, Zakuani said that the public reconciliation was "the final closure" and coming from someone as good-natured as he appears, it's easy to believe that he really means that and wasn't just acting out a script from a team of PR cheeseballs. Still, if Zakuanki goes home, draws the blinds, deactivates the smoke alarm and quietly burns Mullan's shirt in a bucket full of lighter fluid, no one would blame him.
Here's video of Zakuani's comeback (Mullan is Colorado's No. 11 applauding as he runs out)...