By John Boyle Herald Writer
The Seattle Sounders beat Real Salt Lake on Saturday thanks in large part to the play of several new additions ? the first three goals came from players added in the offseason ? but they also came away with a 4-0 victory in part because of someone who’s been a Sounder for more than a decade.
On a star-studded roster that includes the likes of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Osvaldo Alonso, it’s easy to overlook Zach Scott’s contributions, which is a bit of a shame considering how remarkable Scott’s career has been.
Five years ago, Scott, a veteran member of lower-level Sounders teams since 2002, was one of several players trying out for the Major League Soccer version hoping to take his career to the next level.
Back then, had he not made Seattle’s MLS expansion team, Scott was prepared to move back to Hawaii to teach math.
Instead of returning to Hawaii, he earned a contract days before the season began, and five years later, there Scott was on Saturday, starting for the fourth time in five games, helping the best team in MLS to a shutout victory. A player who was very much on the fringe of ever making an MLS roster is still contributing in his sixth season.
?If my career would have ended in 2009, I would have been content,? Scott said. ?I would have been very happy with what I was able to do, but if I keep it going next year, I’ll have played in MLS as long as I did in the USL. … As many guys as we have who are world-class players, to play at this point in my career with a guy like Clint Dempsey is tremendous. To be on the field with an Obafemi Martins is something I never could have imagined. I mean, I remember watching him play for (Inter Milan) when I was in college. It’s a lot of fun, I still love it. One of the best parts of my day is still coming out here and training with these guys.?
Scott didn’t appear in Seattle’s first eight games this season, and considering his age ? he turns 34 next month ? it was fair to wonder how much more he had left in the tank. But it turns out Scott, known as one of the hardest workers on the team, had overdone it a bit, according to Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. Once the freshness returned to his legs, he was back in the rotation for playing time. When the Sounders are at full strength, Scott isn’t likely to start, but he is still proving a to be a valuable asset.
?He’s gotten better since ‘09,? said assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who coached the USL Sounders before joining Schmid’s coaching staff in 2009. ?If you asked any member of our coaching staff, they would say Zach has gotten better. That’s not a knock on what we did at the USL level, but he rose to the challenge of being involved with a very good MLS team that had big stars and stuff like that, and he’s been able to be the lone holdout who’s still here.?
When Scott joined the MLS version of the Sounders, he was one of several players signed from the USL squad, but as Schmetzer noted, Scott is now the last of that group following Roger Levesque’s 2012 retirement. Scott is also one of just three players remaining from the Sounders team that opened the 2009 MLS season (Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso are the others). Schmid recently suggested that Scott has become ?Mister Sounder,? a title Scott is too unassuming to embrace, but one he realizes is an honor nonetheless.
?I don’t know who started that; hopefully it will stop,? he said with a laugh. ?I don’t know what it means, but it’s cool nonetheless. When Sounders come up, guys like Roger Levesque and Taylor Graham and Andrew Gregor and Leighton O’Brien, all these huge names come up, so to be even mentioned in that breath with guys like that under the moniker ?Mister Sounders,’ it’s pretty cool.?
Scott has never been the most physically gifted player ? as Schmetzer jokingly noted, he wouldn’t do well in a race with 20-year-old right back DeAndre Yedlin ? but six seasons into an MLS career that nearly didn’t happen, he’s still thriving thanks to his work ethic, smarts, and toughness.
?When you compare him side-by-side with DeAndre, we all know who’s going to win a race,? Schmetzer said. ?But what Zach possesses is that ability to win most all of his aerial duels, and he has the mental toughness to either outwork, outsmart, out-kick, out-muscle, and be aware of what his deficiencies are to be a good defender in our league absent of maybe that breakaway speed like DeAndre has.
?We’ll rue the day when Zach is gone. He’s been a big-time leader on this club for a lot of different reasons.?
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org