By CALEB SONNELAND
TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders prepare for another Cascadia derby at Qwest Field this Saturday — only this one isn't going to carry the same venom as the previous one.
The Vancouver Whitecaps, with new manager Tom Soehn, will make their way down Washington's coast to put the Sounders' 3-2-2 home record to the test this Saturday (10:30 p.m.).
Although the Seattle-Vancouver rivalry match isn't as anticipated as the heated Sounders-Timbers one, that hardly means that regional pride won't be on the line in the latest Cascadia Cup match.
Here are a few more notes regarding the Seattle Sounders:
ZAKUANI MAKING PROGRESS, COMES TO PRACTICE
The Sounders resumed training this week after a frustrating 0-0 draw at Toyota Park in Chicago. Despite the drab result, spirits were high as influential midfielder Steve Zakuani made a surprise appearance at training, much to the pleasure of his teammates.
Zakuani has been on the comeback trail since late April after suffering a horrendous leg fracture following a tackle from Colorado's Brian Mullan— who received a hefty fine and a 10-game ban.
The sun was finally shining as Zakuani hobbled into the Starfire Sports Complex with just a single crutch under his right arm. The midfielder was all smiles and joked with teammates and enjoyed a lengthy chat with the Sounders' staff as the team practiced.
"It's great to see him out here," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "I know Steve's a very proud person, and he wanted to be able to walk out here and not crutch out here. So for him to come out on one crutch, I think it gave him a good feeling.
"It's that stage where you experience a lot of emotions going through the injury he's suffered. I think he's spent a lot of time dealing with that, but he's moved forward now. When you talk to him, he's really eager to get forward and get after it."
WHITE LOOKS SET TO RETURN THIS SEASON
Zakuani's appearance lifted the spirits of the Sounders camp, which was already high after the reintroduction of Jamaican striker O'Brian White the week before.
Seattle lost White to a blood clot in his leg only six days after it lost Zakuani to the leg injury. White has made good progress in his rehabilitation and on Monday enjoyed some light jogging and fitness exercises.
White is glad to be back out and amongst his teammates in an individual workout routine that Schmid described as "preseason-like intensity".
"It feels good," White said. "It feels good to be out and finally be around the team and working out with the trainers. It was tough, but it's good to get over that hump now and just working to get out on the field," White told the media Tuesday.
He went on to say that he had been playing with "numbness" for about three or four weeks.
"It was numb, but it wasn't pain. It was numb, and it'd go and come, so I didn't think much of it. But we did an MRI and it was negative. Once we got back from Colorado, that's when I started to feel pain in my calf. That's when we did the ultrasound and found it."
MONTERO OPTIMISTIC AFTER BEING DROPPED
The respective recoveries of its attacking players is welcome news to Schmid and the Sounders, who have struggled to score lately, especially with misfiring Designated Player Fredy Montero dropped from the starting XI for the second consecutive game.
Montero, however, is upbeat about his current demotion to the bench.
"It's something that's new for me," Montero said. "I get to watch the game calmly from the bench, see what the opponents are doing and watch for their mistakes, and when I get into the game, I can take advantage of what I've been watching."
When asked if being dropped was a motivating factor in getting his starting spot back, he replied, "Yeah. But what's even more motivating is knowing that we need the three points at home. We need them for the team and that's what my focus is."
Montero allegedly committed a foul on Logan Pause late in the game against Chicago that would have presented him with a good opportunity to find the net. Replays show there wasn't much contact at all between the two, and Pause looked to go down on his own accord.
"I can't really take about or criticize the judgement of the referee, that's his job. The frustration was definitely there. I felt like absolutely I would have been 1-on-1 with the goalie and it was frustrating not to have the opportunity," Montero said.
Schmid was quick to echo the striker's frustration.
"I'm still trying to figure out how he committed a foul on the play where Pause fell down," Schmid said. "Obviously, he would have been in on goal, which could have been a key moment in the game."
TRIALISTS SHERIDAN AND SAMUEL IMPRESS FOR RESERVES
Seattle has been looking to shuffle the deck offensively in recent weeks and has brought 22-year-old striker Cillian Sheridan and 18-year-old midfielder/striker Myron Samuel on trial until June 14 to assess the pair.
Sheridan and Samuel both featured in the Sounders reserve match against the Whitecaps on Tuesday night with the former getting on the scoresheet in just seven minutes of play.
Samuel was Sheridan's halftime replacement and made a few impressive plays but ultimately could not produce a goal like his fellow trialist.
Will Sheridan stay in Seattle for the summer if he proves to be worthy of pursuit?
"We have to look," technical director Chris Henderson said. "We'll have other trialists come in in the next three or four weeks, and he's one of them. We don't want to make a determination off one practice and half a game, but it's good to see that he's connecting with players and tonight has been good for him."
The summer transfer window opens July 15, and, when quizzed about additions to the squad, Schmid said, "We're still looking to improve ourselves."
What's your predicted score for the Cascadia derby? Think Seattle could use White? Should Montero get the start on Saturday?
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