TUKWILA, Wash. – When Brian Schmetzer says he was there for the start of Zach Scott’s professional career, it’s no exaggeration.
It was an open tryout for anyone interested in joining the USL version of the Seattle Sounders back in 2002. These weren’t invited players taking part, just any guy off the street who wanted to catch the eye of Schmetzer, the coach of the club, and possibly have a part-time career as a professional soccer player.
“The game was terrible because it was a bunch of (tryouts), it was on Memorial Stadium on the old turf, narrow, the balls are being lumped (in) and Zach is crushing every single header,” recalled Schmetzer, the current interim coach of the MLS version of the Sounders. “… Zach was truly an open tryout. He was a name on the paper.”
That was the first memory Schmetzer had of his center defender. Fifteen years later, and after 349 career appearances through different incarnations of the Sounders, Scott is on the verge of retirement at age 36.
Scott will put on his Sounders uniform for potentially the final time Sunday when Seattle closes out the regular season against Real Salt Lake. Thanks to a late-season surge, the Sounders are likely to be playing beyond Sunday in the MLS Cup playoffs. A win will put Seattle into the postseason, and the Sounders can still get there with a loss or draw depending on what happens with Portland and Sporting Kansas City.
So the priority for Seattle is getting a result, as Scott would prefer. But there will also be recognition of Scott’s career, even if he would prefer no fanfare at all.
“Mentally I’ve been preparing myself for this basically since last November when I didn’t know if I was going to be back,” Scott said. “Every extra day, or every extra game day to put on the jersey has been a good one. I’ve got no regrets or no real expectations of what is going to happen this Sunday. If there is another opportunity to do it, great. Obviously you want to go out winning a championship but that’s beyond my control at this point.”
Through a combination of longevity, loyalty and a style of play based more on effort than skill, Scott has etched a spot in Seattle soccer history dating to the original Sounders of the 1970s. Flash and flair were never parts of Scott’s game. Instead, he’s been a humble role player who has earned a place in Sounders fans’ hearts that even the most decorated stars of the club may never have.
It’s why there will be a bobblehead of Scott handed out before Sunday’s game. It’s why he’s featured on the specialized poster being sold for the final regular-season match. It’s why the Emerald City Supporters are likely to feature Scott on their pregame tifo.
It’s exactly the kind of attention Scott doesn’t want.
“I was asked to do a job when I was signed to the Sounders and I’ve made sure that every day I’ve come out here and done that job,” Scott said. “So the fact that it’s being celebrated, me just doing my job, is a bit ridiculous but in the same sense, it’s also gives my family a chance to come together maybe one last time around soccer.”
Scott has just two career goals in MLS competition, but it was in other competitions – CONCACAF Champions League and the U.S. Open Cup – where Scott had special moments. Perhaps no moment will top scoring the deciding penalty in a shootout win over rival Portland in the 2010 Open Cup. It was the 2014 Open Cup final at Philadelphia that stood out for Schmetzer.
“Zach was a warrior that day. He was on a half a leg for three quarters of that game. I remember him coming off in between overtime periods, the guy couldn’t walk. But we hold the lead at 2-1 and we end up winning that trophy,” Schmetzer said. “… Zach would tell you the important moments are the soccer moments. The things he did on the field, I know he’s fiercely proud of that.”
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