Former Arsenal prospect and MLS star forced to retire at 26 due to injuries

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Portland Timbers forward Steve Zakuani has been forced to end his once-flourishing career due to injuries which stemmed from a broken leg suffered in 2011.

Former Arsenal trainee and MLS star Steve Zakuani has been forced to retire from football at just 26 after struggling with injuries over the past four seasons.

‘This is hands down the toughest decision I've had to make in my life, but with all things taken into consideration, I have peace that it's the right one for me to make,’ Zakuani said on his official website.

‘Not being able to consistently perform at the high level I'm used to was tough to deal with mentally, and the constant physical pain I was under from week to week also took its toll. Rather than play through aches and pains for the next few years, I've chosen to go on with my life because as much as I love the sport, my health has to come first.’

A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zakuani was raised in London, England, and spent time in Arsenal’s academy, before making his way to the USA for college in 2007.

Two seasons spent starring at Akron University saw the Seattle Sounders make the highly-rated forward the first-overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, with the club soon reaping the rewards from their selection.

Making 29 appearances in each of his first two seasons in Seattle, Zakuani recorded 10 goals and six assists during the 2010 campaign to establish himself as one of the league’s most exciting prospects, and earn his sole international cap for the DR Congo national team.

Rumours of a move to the Premier League with Everton followed, but the ex-Gunners’ man’s career would take a turn for the worst after fracturing his leg against the Colorado Rapids in April 2011, beginning a long-running battle to return to his former promise.

He returned to the pitch in 2012 but then made just eight league appearances the following term due to various setbacks, before his former college head coach Caleb Porter brought him to Pacific Northwest rivals the Portland Timbers in December.

He appeared in 17 league games for the Timbers in 2014, contributing three assists, before bringing down the curtain on a once-flourishing career at the conclusion of the regular-season.

‘There are many people I could thank for the role they've played in my career, and the time for that will come’ he added.

‘Right now, I want to thank the two clubs that I played for – the Sounders and Timbers – for giving me the opportunity to represent them and live my dream. It was a tough year for me in Portland, but the organization treated me very well and gave me tremendous support through my injuries and my decision to retire.’

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