In 2002, after a successful college soccer career at Gonzaga University, Zach Scott was giving himself one last shot at a professional career. If he was unable to catch on, he would pursue a teaching job using his degree from Gonzaga.
He’d already been through one open tryout and was taking his final shot when the Sounders held an open tryout for their USL team.
“I knew this was going to be my last chance to be a pro. I don’t know if that necessarily helped, but I played a little looser,” Scott said. “I either did it or I’d have to find another job.”
In that tryout, he joined many other professional hopefuls. He had to do something to stand out.
“I think the biggest thing is matching the intensity of the guys around you and then finding some way to stand out. For me that was winning a lot of balls, whether it was in the air or in my 1v1 battles,” he said. “There are a lot of guys who are even with each other, so you have to do something above and beyond that.
After 139 games played and two USL titles in seven seasons, it’s safe to say he was a quality find for Brian Schmetzer, Adrian Hanauer and the Sounders. Now he is in his third training camp with the Sounders FC in MLS and has proved equally valuable to Sigi Schmid and the top-flight franchise.
The 30-year-old Hawaii native has 13 regular season appearances for the Sounders FC. Of his ten starts, two have come at MLS First Kick as Seattle opened the season with victories in front of a capacity crowd at Qwest Field and a national television audience.
Along the way, Scott has had to make several adjustments to his game as the levels have increased, starting with the open tryout.
“It’s like that jump in everything. From high school to college. From college to pro. And even from second division pro to MLS,” he said. “There’s a good amount of time that you need to take to get up to speed. Players are playing so much quicker and so much more consistently. It’s just a matter of finding that pace and that technique as quickly as possible so it doesn’t show if you’re behind everyone.”
His approach this time around is not any different than his first nine seasons as a pro, to train and play as if he will start in a third season opener, this time against the LA Galaxy at Qwest Field on March 15.
However, he does see that his play can be a good example for the younger players in camp who are trying to earn their first professional contracts.
“There aren’t many people who have a chance to tryout for a professional team, let alone a team like Seattle. When you come from a lower division squad to the top league in the US, it’s a huge jump and it’s definitely something special,” he said. “This is my 10th season as a pro, so had I known what I know now, I’m sure I would have avoided a lot of injuries and developed a lot quicker. If I bring somebody along the path that I’ve taken but just a little faster, hopefully that person can be a good pro as well.”
Scott will fly with the Sounders FC to Arizona for the second leg of training camp on Sunday. They will spend two weeks at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona. They are scheduled to play two matches there before returning to Seattle on February 12.
Saturday and Sunday at Starfire, the club is holding open tryouts with the possibility of finding another diamond in the rough like Scott. Each participant paid a registration fee, with proceeds going to the Sounders FC Youth Academy program.