In front of a typically vocal northwest crowd on Saturday, Steve Zakuani made a touching return to MLS. He appeared as an eighty-sixth minute substitution and impressed: the first pick in the 2009 draft looked his usual energetic self. Zakuani had missed the past fourteen months after sustaining multiple fractures to his right leg, courtesy a reckless tackle by the Colorado Rapids' Brian Mullen.
His return wasn't special because he further increases depth in a formidable front line, nor because the occasion snapped the team out of a nine-match winless streak. His return was special because when the final whistle shrilled, Zakuani and Mullen searched each other out and hugged, exchanging jerseys in one of the most touching moments in MLS history.
Century Link Field achieved a small claim to fame in 2011 when the crowd set off seismographs during an NFL playoff game. On Saturday, reverberations were felt around the league as first Seattle, then the league offered Zakuani a warm welcome.
Sportsmen are often expected to display a stoic aggression that touches on bluster. Occasionally, decency is lain at the altars of gamesmanship and achievement. However, often the most powerful gestures on sports arenas aren't dripping with machismo but those where a player takes the opportunity to do the right thing. On Saturday, MLS was fortunate to see one of those moments.