In the third minute of Seattle's 1-0 road win against the Colorado Rapids, star midfielder Steve Zakuani suffered a potentially season-ending injury on a malicious tackle by Brian Mullan.

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — No matter the final score, Friday night was a huge loss for Sounders FC.

In the third minute of Seattle’s 1-0 road win against the Colorado Rapids, star midfielder Steve Zakuani suffered a potentially season-ending injury on a malicious tackle by Brian Mullan.

Zakuani, who came into the game tied for the team high in goals (2) and assists (2), broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg and had to be taken off on a stretcher and sent to the emergency room. He was being scheduled for surgery late Friday.

“It was probably the most gruesome tackle I’ve seen in a long time,” said midfielder Brad Evans.

Mullan was immediately issued a red card for the challenge and Colorado, the reigning MLS Cup champion, was forced to play the rest of the game with 10 men.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid declined to suggest how the league should punish Mullan, but general manager Adrian Hanauer had an idea.

“I think maybe a good answer is Mullan gets to play when Steve is back on the field,” said Hanauer, who is also a part owner. “(Mullan) is a hard player but that was a dirty tackle. He lined him up. There was absolutely no reason to crush him like that. It’s my hope that he’ll be heavily punished, but obviously it’s out of our hands.”

The only punishment Seattle (2-2-3) could offer was on the field and the visitors snatched the lead for good in the 19th minute on a brilliant counterattack.

The play started when forward O’Brian White gathered the ball near midfield and raced down the right flank before passing it to midfielder Mauro Rosales. Rosales then centered a pass to a wide-open Fredy Montero, who buried an 18-yard shot to the far post to end a long scoring drought.

Montero hadn’t scored in his past 16 games and 1,290 minutes in all competitions. His last league goal was Aug. 28 against Chicago.

“It’s good for Fredy,” Schmid said. “It should help his confidence and hopefully he can carry that forward into the next games.”

Colorado (3-3) pressed forward in the second half and had several chances to tie the game late. But Seattle tensely held on for its first shutout of the season and extended its unbeaten streak to five, the longest in the league.

But Friday felt anything like a success.

“It’s not the reaction you’d expect,” said defender James Riley. “Everyone is devastated, not only for the loss of the Steve but just the way we displayed ourselves. It definitely felt like a loss even though we won 1-0.”

Notes

• Seattle started its sixth different lineup in seven games. Montero started at forward for the first time in four games, which pushed Rosales to the right side of midfield in place of Erik Friberg. Seattle’s defense also saw two changes as Patrick Ianni and Tyson Wahl replaced Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez. Friberg, Parke and Gonzalez had each started every game this season. Parke had played every minute.

• Former Sounders FC defender Tyrone Marshall started for Colorado. Sanna Nyassi, who also played the last two years in Seattle, came off the bench in the 72nd minute.

• Sounders FC next hosts Toronto FC in an April 30 home game at 7 p.m.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com