Against a world-class team like Chelsea FC, few would expect the play of Zach Scott to stand out.
A mere month earlier Scott was relegated to watching Sounders training from the sidelines. After undergoing abdominal surgery, Scott had been out of action for two months. But you would not know it by his play against one of the top teams in the world.
Scott was all over the field, saving two shots off the line in just over three minutes to preserve a scoreless second half in Seattle’s 2-0 loss. It was a rapid return to form for a player that had patiently awaited his opportunity to play in the MLS while thriving at the USL level.
However, even that success was somewhat surprising. After finishing his college career at Gonzaga University, the Hawaiian defender made the USL Sounders roster in 2002 after coming to the team in an open tryout. After seven gritty seasons and two USL titles with the Sounders, Scott was again given the chance to tryout – this time for the Sounders FC in the MLS in January.
As the preseason progressed, Scott never wavered from the starting XI and he was the unlikeliest of starters for head coach Sigi Schmid when the club opened their inaugural season March 19 in a 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. He remained in the starting lineup through the first five games of the season. He was on the bench for the next three games, but worked his way back into the starting crew against FC Dallas May 16, only to leave 18 minutes into the game with an abdominal strain.
Surgery and two months later, he was looking across the field at Chelsea and proved he was up to the challenge. Now he is out to prove each day in training that he belongs back in a starter’s role.
“It’s actually gone a lot better than expected. I felt strong early on and it healed quickly. The biggest thing was just breaking back into the team. It was easier recovering from surgery than it was getting back into the team. There were three or four guys ahead of me who were playing really well, so it wasn’t going to be a given and it’s still something I’m struggling to do,” Scott said.
That competition became even more fervent last month when the Sounders FC signed defender Leo Gonzalez, a left-footer who is a natural fit at left back, adding to other frequent starters Tyson Wahl and Nathan Sturgis. But Scott embraces that competitive addition.
“Competition is key and that’s what’s pushing me the hardest. Even if I feel like I’m playing well, there’s always that other guy who’s trying to take that position as well,” he said. “The main thing is to stay healthy so I can put up a good fight to get back in the squad. If I can make it hard for Coach Sigi to pick his team, then I know I’m doing my job.”