Zach Scott waited nine matches before finally getting his first opportunity to start in the 2014 season. For someone that waited seven seasons in the USL before breaking through in MLS with Sounders FC in 2009, it should come as no surprise that Seattle has turned around its defensive fortunes since he took over starting duties in four of the last five matches.
"The team's playing well and that always helps," Scott said. "It wasn't the way I wanted to start the season, but I've been preparing well and making sure that when the opportunity did come that I was ready."
Scott made his first start of the year against FC Dallas on May 7, filling in to give Djimi Traore a rest during a three-game week. He didn't play in the next match, but has started all three matches since and seen a resurgence in Seattle's defense, posting a 0.75 goals against average with two shutouts in his four starts.
While playing behind Traore and Chad Marshall, Scott utilized his time with the reserves to stay sharp. However, he had started to tire from his relentless training style as he tried to work his way into consideration for playing time.
"I thought early on, he had trained a lot and seemed at times a little stale to me," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "I wanted the freshness to get back into him and in the two or three weeks prior to when he played, you could see a step up in training and he did well. He's parlayed that into a couple of really strong performances."
Scott, who is in his 13th season playing in Seattle after seven years in the USL and six years in MLS, knew to be patient and that his time would come over the course of a long season, but that didn't make the wait any easier.
"It's frustrating, obviously. You want to be on the field," he said. "I think after playing several years in the league I realize how long the season is, and I'm not as anxious as I would be if I was a young guy that didn't realize that we've got so many games with the competitions that we're in. The way the team was formed was to have a lot of depth and you just have to be ready for your opportunity."
Paired with Chad Marshall in shutout victories over the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake, Scott has found his equal in tenacity to win balls in the air. In those two matches, Seattle has allowed just two total shots on goal, a testament to the team's commitment to defending, as well as the organization and defensive prowess that the Marshall-Scott combination provides.
"It's fun playing with a guy like that because we have very similar personalities. The longer we've played, the more we realize each other's tendencies," Scott said. "It's been nice playing with a guy that wins just as many headers as I do."
Seattle faces the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, with television coverage on JOEtv (KZJO, channel 22/cable 10).