Following a six-year absence, the Sounders are back in the United Soccer League.
Sounders FC’s USL team – now known as S2 – will be crucial to the organization and its ultimate goal of bringing MLS Cups to Seattle. No one understands that more than Zach Scott, the club’s veteran defender who spent seven seasons with the original USL Sounders before becoming a mainstay on the backline of the MLS side.
“It’s hugely beneficial. There’s only so much you can get out of training, and you need game experience,” Scott said. “Getting a chance to play with S2 is tremendous. That’s what you’re looking for: some time on the field to prove to the coaches that you’ll be ready when your number is called.”
S2 is two games into its inaugural 2015 season, one that has commenced with a pair of resounding victories for the Rave Green. The team’s lineup will most often feature a mix of its own signings, First-Team players and call-ups from the Sounders FC Academy.
And if the past is any indication, those young men suiting up for S2 are gaining valuable experience that will help them reach their full potential as soccer players.
Along with Scott, three other Sounders FC veterans spent time in the USL before enjoying success in Major League Soccer: Osvaldo Alonso, Lamar Neagle and Micheal Azira. Many retired MLS players developed their game while playing for the USL Sounders, including Taylor Graham and Roger Levesque.
Another example is current Philadelphia Union forward Sebastien Le Toux, who has scored 46 goals in six MLS seasons after spending two years with the USL Sounders.
“I think that’s the intent of the league: to showcase young players. And if they play well, coaches are forced to move them up and see if they can do it at the next level,” said Brian Schmetzer, who coached the USL Sounders from 2002-2008 and is now the Top Assistant Coach for the MLS club.
“You could argue, based on the first two games, that some of those players are in fact at the MLS level. They’ll certainly have some aches and pains and learning curves along the way, but it’s always good to get a positive start out of the gate. It gives confidence to the guys on their team.”
For Graham and Levesque – both of whom are now in the club’s front office – seeing S2 compete in the USL brings back some fond memories. The Sounders won multiple league titles under Schmetzer and had thousands of soccer fans in the Emerald City behind them.
“Equally as passionate as the supporters that the First Team has now,” Levesque said of the fans. “We didn’t have the numbers that they do now, but playing for the Sounders at the USL level, we definitely felt the support from the community.”
Above all, playing in the USL was special because of the strong friendships with teammates.
“We had a lot of fun together because guys were playing for the right reasons, which is for the love of the game and to try to find success,” Graham said. “When we trained, we trained hard. And when we traveled, we traveled professionally. When we played, we played hard. That was the culture that we built.”