Zach Scott first joined the Seattle Sounders back in 2002 after effectively winning a spot through an open tryout. He was never the Sounders’ best player, not even during those USL days. He was not among the players expected to make the jump to MLS, but he managed to make the team anyway and even started the regular-season opener.
Still, Scott didn’t seem long for this league. He wasn’t particularly technical or fast. He was physical enough, but he didn’t really have a defined position either. At 29 years old, he got fewer than 500 regular-season minutes in that first MLS season. He made for a nice story, but players on the wrong side of 30 don’t normally improve as they get older, and it seemed entirely likely Scott had reached his peak.
What Scott had, though, was a tireless work ethic. Every year he got better and actually saw his minutes steadily go up. Rather than fade away, Scott’s role increased. From 2012 to 2015, he averaged more than 1,400 minutes per season and started nearly half of the Sounders’ games.
Even after another solid season in 2015 — despite playing with a broken foot much of the year — the Sounders decided to decline his option, though. The expectation was that Scott would finally succumb to retirement.
Scott wasn’t interested in retiring on someone else’s schedule. The 35-year-old insisted on being given a chance to tryout this year. He of course made the team.
This hasn’t been one of Scott’s best years, a few notable mistakes have cost the Sounders dearly. But he’s also been deemed important enough to get nine starts and will probably end up clocking more than 900 minutes. He also earned the right to retire on his own terms, something he formally announced on Thursday.
“It's unlike me to draw individual attention to myself, and my focus for the rest of the season remains on helping my teammates and this club get to the playoffs,” Scott said in a team-released statement. “However, my family and I owe so much to the overall Seattle community and the organization, so we wanted to share these final weeks with everyone. I wouldn't have wanted my career to go any other way and I couldn't have picked a better place for us to put down roots as a family.”
Despite an improbable beginning, Scott leaves the Sounders as one of their all-time leaders during the MLS era. Only four players have made more regular-season appearances (116, including 91 starts), none played in more U.S. Open Cup matches (20) and no one has started more CONCACAF Champions League games (19). He also played in 179 USL and A-League matches (including playoffs and Open Cup) for the Sounders and helped the Sounders claim 10 league and Open Cup trophies.
“When I joined the USL Sounders in 2002, I never could have imagined the journey I would have with this young, aggressive rookie from Gonzaga,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Fifteen seasons later, my relationship with Zach has grown to emulate the progression of the organization - an unwavering bond of commitment, growth and achievement.
“It is difficult to imagine a match, training session or community event without Zach, but I am forever grateful for his 15 incredible seasons with our club. His commitment toward doing whatever it takes to help the team win, and striving to be his personal best are qualities that make him forever a Sounder.”