For many players, the rigors of training every day pale in comparison to the excitement of matchday. Zach Scott views training days different than most players, though. Perpetually working to sharpen his craft as a hard-nosed and versatile defender, Scott cherishes the opportunity to improve that comes with each training session.
“I hate practices on the day before a game because they’re so light. I want to be out there for longer and continue to try to get better,” he said. “I understand that we need to take a day off before the game and have a light practice, but it’s so hard to do. Every practice I use as an opportunity to get better.”
That attitude has not only kept Scott on top of his game, but has allowed him to improve each year, becoming a prominent figure on Seattle’s backline. In 2014 he will return for his 13th season in Seattle after seven years with the USL club before playing the last five years in MLS.
Now 33 years old, Scott had a career high in minutes with 1,458 while starting in 16 of his 21 MLS appearances in 2013. Though he started in the inaugural match, he readily admits that he is vastly improved over the player that took the field in a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in 2009 and that’s one of the reasons he is returning.
“I still feel like a starter on this team and I’m going to continue to push and play hard and, hopefully, improve year after year,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t improved since the first year I signed with the Sounders. If I was still the same player I was in 2009, there’s no way I’d still be on the roster right now.”
That tenacity has endeared Scott to fans, who paid tribute to his 10 years in Seattle with a tifo display in 2012. It also has made him an ideal teammate and a reliable asset for the coaches. Whether it’s as a center back, where he started 11 matches in 2013, or in either outside back role, Head Coach Sigi Schmid knows exactly what to expect from Scott each match. He even played all across the backline in three consecutive starts from May 8-18 last year.
That trust in Scott from the coaching staff also means they are confident that they can be hard on him when he needs it and that he will respond to those challenges.
“I’ve always been hyper-critical of myself. I’ll always look at what I can do better to get the most out of my opportunities,” Scott said. “I think the coaches are comfortable calling me out on things and I’m comfortable accepting that criticism even if I don’t agree.”
That makes him a great candidate when it is time for someone to take a young player under his tutelage, teaching him the nuances of being a professional and what it means to represent the city and the Sounders. In addition, his workrate and skillset allow him to push others in training each day.
“I want to be a positive influence on the young guys and continue to push guys that they bring in that they think are starters,” Scott said.
With newly acquired center back Chad Marshall joining a group that already includes Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Patrick Ianni and Scott, there will be plenty of competition at center back and Scott remains an option at right back or left back when needed.
With just weeks before training camp starts, he is ready to get things started on his next soccer journey.
“There was truly never a point where I questioned whether or not I was coming back,” he said. “It was just checking in with my family, checking in with my body and then saying, ‘Alright. Let’s do it again’.”