I’d like to take the Brian Mullan tackle on Steve Zakuani in an unpopular direction.
Friday night in Colorado, the Sounders made a 1-0 win stand-up in the face of what was some heartfelt agony at losing their teammate Steve Zakuani on an unfortunate tackle in the early minutes.
A confluence of circumstances, and some may say a frustration tackle by veteran Brian Mullan, led to Steve Zakuani’s career being put in peril. Breaks to both the tibia and fibia. Mullan slid in aggressively as Zakuani planted on his right foot. All that could heard as the pop of breaking bones.
You have to feel for Zakuani, like Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo before him, a finesse and pace-based player whose career may be forever changed by the tackle (let’s hope not.)
On Mullan’s side, a moment of lack of judgement–there is no defending the reckless challenge–will now forever stain a professional career that has earned him five MLS Cups. His mark–no pun intended–on the game will be forever tarnished by the tackle. A crude badge of dishonor.
I said I was going to take the commentary on the tackle in another direction. I had a friend growing up, Keith Ball, who he and I battled unmercilessly on the baseball diamond. On the field, Keith was an enormous talent who played hard and played to win. Off the field, perhaps the nicest guy in the room. On field, pardon, but a dickhead, win at all costs sort of fellow.
But he’s that player, like a Brian Mullan, who added that toughness necessary–in any league by any team–as an integral ingredient to a side.
I don’t condone what Brian Mullan did–and debate will see-saw on his character and “the dirtiness” of the play for the next few days–but I do know it’s the game and that moment, “the moment” is consuming, leading players to both great exaltation and other times, like tonight, sheer anguish.
That same power that willed a Landon Donovan shot into the back of the net against Algeria worked in reverse this evening.
It’s the nature of the game. It’s unavoidable. It’s how it goes.
Unfortunately, Steve Zakuani was on the receiving end. Hopefully, he will make a speedy recovery and exhibit the same speed, and more, that made him a dangerous player with the ball and tonight’s horror moment will be but a bottoming footnote in a highlight reel career.