Although his latest ailment is completely unrelated to the leg injury that cost Steve Zakuani much of the last two seasons, today’s news represents another roadblock between 25-year-old and his former, elite MLS winger-status.
On Tuesday, Zakuani underwent surgery in Philadelphia for a sports hernia. Read the details from Joshua Mayers and the Seattle Times here. The bottom line: Recovery time will cost the Seattle Sounders attacker the next 6-8 weeks of the season.
It’s not like Zakuani’s season was going swimmingly before this injury. In six games (468 minutes), Zakuani’s failed to score. No shame in that (it’s not like he’s a striker), but with one assist and only two shots on goal, Zakuani’s stats fairly reflect his slow start.
This was supposed to be Zakuani’s big comeback season, and perhaps that can still happen. But after missing almost all of 2011 while spending the last half of 2012 returning to full fitness, Zakuani’s preseason spirits were high.
Finishing the season by tearing up Sean Franklin in the second leg of the conference finals, Zakuani had a proof of concept in place. There were no lingering doubts. There was almost no concern about whether he could return to form. Zakuani was expected to be the Sounders’ regular left winger.
But then he got caught up in the Sounders’ slow start. Then there was illness. Now there’s this minor surgery.
None of it’s major stuff. They’re not even real setbacks. It’s just a collection of annoyances that preventing this Zakuani story from coming full circle.
Now there’s the danger of one annoyance leading to another. With Seattle surging, how difficult will it be for Zakuani to earn his spot back when he returns? Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson are inked up top. Lamar Neagle seems the best bet to play wide, Zakuani’s spot. But tied for the team lead in goals (four), is Neagle going to give way to Zakuani?
We’ll find out in two months.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.