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Galaxy loss showed Sounders can no longer rely upon Zach Scott

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Veteran is hardly team's worst or biggest problem, but he doesn’t fit Sounders tactics and it’s time to move on.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal-Seattle Sounders FC at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday’s 4-2 loss in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was very painful. From a broad perspective all the way on down to the little details, it magnifies the seeming futility of this season.

At the overarching level, there is the current state of the Sounders’ MLS season and the fact that a deep trophy run has the emotional capacity to at least lift spirits. All the little breaks have gone against them. Here in this Open Cup game, the LA Galaxy gifted the Sounders two goals from some very atrocious play on their own part. The Sounders couldn’t capitalize on their fortune and gave away the match with a series of mistakes. At the core of those mistakes was Zach Scott.

LA’s first goal was the result of a sequence of worked play following a poor clearance from Scott. With the defense in transition, the clearance allowed LA to restart play deep in Seattle’s half, switch the attack, and bury a through ball through the Sounders’ lines and into the feet of Alan Gordon. Gordon finds himself in this enviable position as he’s ghosted off the back of Tony Alfaro who’s turned to respond and provide single cover against an attack on Dylan Remick. At this point, Scott should be responding to the threat Gordon proposes but he’s far out of position.

LA’s second equalizer came from the quick work of Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes in defense. Dos Santos cuts off Scott’s service into the midfield with his positioning while Zardes pressures. Scott, under pressure, makes an attempt to find Alfaro but his angle is again closed by dos Santos and rather than choosing to cede possession by passing back to Tyler Miller for what would likely be a long clearance, he attempts the pass that finds dos Santos in position for the easy interception.

LA’s fourth goal — and the final nail in the coffin — starts with a long ball into Zardes. Down a goal, Scott eschews being Zach Scott, aerial monster, and tries to win the ball back with his feet and start a quick transition through the middle. He fails to win the challenge with Zardes, finds himself out of position, and LA easily exploits the space between Scott and Fisher to work possession down the field and craft an easy chance on goal.

There’s two common themes here: a) the reliance on creating and maintaining possession and b) the diminishment of skill. Possession is the focal point of this Sounders team. It’s built around Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso and it’s the reason why the team has targeted the likes of Andreas Ivanschitz and Erik Friberg who are good at crafting and maintaining possession in their own right. The Sounder of the previous two years focused on transition play, something that emphasized long balls out of the back, winning quick duels and attacking opposition backlines even while the Sounders was in disarray. That suits a player like Zach Scott and there’s a reason some of his best years as a Sounders were just recently.

Asking Scott to pass effectively, read the opposition press, and stand on his own as a player are not his strengths. Asking him to play this way puts the Sounders in situations like those we saw on Wednesday. It was noticeable when the Sounders were built around Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales and it’s been noticeable at many other points this season and at the end of last season.

To top that all off, Scott has lost the physical edge that has allowed him to maintain himself as a viable player at this level. The poor clearance on the first goal and inability to get back into position; the lack of physicality to body up Zardes on the fourth; the inability to escape or hold off pressure on the second. These are not things that Scott has lacked previously, even if he was never the best at them.

At the apex of all of this though is the fact that Scott bleeds rave green. He is Mr. Sounder and he’s given them a ton of value in addition to his blood, sweat, and tears over the past seven years for an MLS minimum salary — and since 2002 as a player for the USL Sounders. This is a player I have really liked on an emotional and squad composition level. Seeing Zach Scott put in a position where he has trouble succeeding and one that the Galaxy can exploit is the last thing you want to see and it’s time to ask whether his continued presence hurts both the player and the team.