Nobody could have expected a year quite like 2009 for the Sounders FC.
Count Zach Scott in that group. He somewhat unexpectedly earned a starting spot on the opening night roster and started the clubs first five games. But an early-season injury took away most of the rest of his first year in MLS.
Now he is chomping at the bit for competition as he works to get back on the field for the 2010 season.
Before earning a spot with the Sounders FC, though, Zach Scott was the longest of longshot stories with the Sounders in the USL. A native of Haiku, Hawaii, Scott played his college soccer at Gonzaga. After going largely unheralded after four years in Spokane with the Bulldogs, Scott attended an open tryout for the Sounders. There he caught the eye of head coach Brian Schmetzer, who is now an assistant coach for the Sounders FC, and Schmetzer couldn’t find a reason to keep Scott off the field.
All he did in the USL was play 161 games over seven seasons, totaling over 13,000 minutes in USL play, registering nine goals and four assists while being a menace from his left back spot.
Still, as a non-roster invitee to his first MLS camp, Scott was a longshot to make the club in 2009.
Yet there he was, coming out of the tunnel on opening night of the inaugural match, then helping the Sounders defeat the New York Red Bulls 3-0 at Qwest Field.
“I don’t think anybody had any idea what the atmosphere was going to be like or how the team was going to be embraced,” said Scott, 29. “Walking out of the tunnel and hearing the roar of the crowd and seeing everyone with theirs scarves up – it was a surreal experience.”
He went on to start the first five games before giving way to Nathan Sturgis for the next three matches. Scott found himself back with the starting 11 when the Sounders took to the road to face FC Dallas, but his return was shortlived, as a tear in his lower abdomen pulled him from the game just 17 minutes in.
He was diagnosed with a sports hernia, and as a result also had groin problems that he hoped would go away and avoid surgery. The injuries continued to hamper him, however, so he had offseason surgery and has since recovered.
The off-season surgery meant no off-season soccer for Scott, the first time in a while he’d gone two months without touching a ball. Prior to training camp in 2009, he can’t even remember a time when he didn’t have a ball at his foot. This season, though, he focused on building his strength after his surgery.
“It was extremely different, but at the same time I’ve never felt as strong as I am leading into this season,” he said.
Although he was much stronger at the start of training camp, he didn’t have the explosiveness that made him such a force earlier in his career.
“I thought I was ready and threw myself into everything thinking I could push through any discomfort I was feeling,” Scott said. “As a result it was evident that I lost a lot of power. My muscles weren’t responding to what my mind was telling me. Now, that is starting to come together and it feels more normal.”
Even though it was a troublesome first year, Scott wouldn’t trade it for anything in his soccer career.
“Even with the injury and everything, last year was my most fun year playing soccer. Being a part of the first ever MLS Sounders team in Seattle was beyond anything I could have imagined it to be,” he said. “So even with the injuries and my playing time falling off as a result it was still so exciting and so fun.”
Now he is just hoping the sequel can be as good as the original. Because if there is one thing people like more than a longshot story, it’s a comeback story.