In the entire history of Seattle sports, I think we might have a hard time finding a better embodiment of the “underdog” than Zach Scott. The one-time walk-on for the Seattle Sounders’ USL team would eventually make over 350 appearances while spending his entire professional career with one team.
What made the journey even more impressive is how little fanfare he enjoyed along the way.
Growing up on the Hawaiian island of Maui, it was probably a borderline miracle that he ended up getting a scholarship to play collegiately at Gonzaga. But even after a solid four-year run there, he was prepping for a non-soccer life after going undrafted by MLS in 2002.
He managed to win a spot on the USL version of the Sounders, however, through an open tryout in front of none other than Brian Schmetzer. After a solid six seasons of USL play in which he helped lead the Sounders to two league titles, he was again preparing to hang up his boots when the team made the move to MLS.
Again, he managed to make the team through a preseason performance. And Scott didn’t just make the team, he impressed enough to earn a spot in the starting lineup in the inaugural MLS game, oddly enough at the unfamiliar position of left back.
That would become a bit of a theme throughout Scott’s career. Although he never entered any preseason as an assumed starter, Scott ended up making about 150 appearances across all competitions for the Sounders during his eight-year MLS career. That included 12 playoff starts, including at least one in each of his final six seasons.
Despite not making his first MLS appearance until 2009, Scott finished with more MLS playing time than all but about a dozen players from the 2002 draft class and outlasted all of them (Brad Davis was the only other player to also retire in 2016 but Scott played his final game in the postseason).
Somehow, he always was among the team’s lowest paid players and never made above the MLS minimum. When he announced his retirement, he quipped “Well, you guys know my contract, so it definitely wasn’t money [that kept me going]. I’ll tell you that.”
Another part of what makes his story so compelling is that his non-sporting life was not so unlike ours. Just like many of us, he lived in a two income family, and he often credited his wife with making his soccer career possible.
Never afraid to get into a tackle or fight for a header, Scott somehow managed to always be available. That wasn’t because he had some sort of innate ability to stay healthy, he was just willing to do things like play part of the 2015 season with a broken foot.
Scott was a rare player who was paid as if he was disposable but whose place on the roster was almost irreplaceable, especially the longer he remained the team. Going into 2011, Scott had just 10 MLS starts. He then made nine MLS starts that year — on arguably the Sounders’ most talented team up to that point — and then started 16 in each of their next three seasons, including the double-winning 2014 campaign. Scott also made a career-high four postseason starts that season. Even during his final season, Scott made 17 appearances and 11 starts, including two in the playoffs.
Throughout it all, he gave the Sounders a very real connection to their USL days and helped give the club a sense of self that was greater than the MLS era. He may have never been the best player, but he was almost always able to turn in a capable performance whenever the Sounders needed him.