You didn’t have to be Miss Cleo to see this coming. Seattle had made the tough decision to leave Steve Zakuani exposed in the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft, a decision that was sure to peak Portland’s interest.
With Zakuani’s former college coach now in charge with the Sounders’ rival, the question wasn’t whether Caleb Porter would want the former first overall pick. It was how they would get him.
Today we got our answers. Swapping first round picks in the Re-Entry Draft, Portland sent defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste to Chivas USA for Jorge Villafaña, with the Timbers also giving Chivas the No. 17 pick to move up to No. 2. There, after D.C. United selected Sean Franklin from Los Angeles, Portland brought another Akron alum into Porter’s fold.
Zakuani joins Darlington Nagbe, Ben Zemanski, and Michael Nanchoff as former Zips on Porter’s roster, though coming from Seattle, Zakuani’s acquisition transcends the Akron narrative. A popular player whose tenure with the Sounders dates back to the team’s first MLS season (when he was the club’s first ever draft pick), the site of Zakuani in a Timbers uniform is sure to bring discomfort to the Rave Green faithful.
The degree to which they’ll rue the move may depend on Zakuani’s health. The 25-year-old suffered a devastating leg injury in April 2011 but appeared fully recovered for the start of this season. However, suffering through a sports hernia injury, Zakuani played only eight league games in 2013, scoring once.
In 2010, the year before his leg injury, Zakuani put in an all-star caliber season, registering 10 goals and six assists in 29 games, becoming one of the best left wingers in the league. But with Seattle clearing out cap space in an effort to reshape their team, a player who has appeared in only 22 league games over the last three years had to be let go, Portland now assuming the commitment to a man who made $233,000 in 2013 ($135,000 against the cap).
We’ll circle back with more on the Re-Entry Draft. For now, here are the players who were selected in stage one:
1. D.C. United – Sean Franklin, RB, LA Galaxy
2. Portland Timbers (from Chivas USA) – Steve Zakuani, LW, Seattle
6. Philadelphia Union – Corben Bone, M, Chicago
13. Colorado Rapids – Marc Burch, D/M, Seattle
20. D.C. United – Bobby Boswell, D, Houston Dynamo