Zach Scott is calling it a career.
A decade and a half after making his debut with a minor league Seattle Sounders franchise likely unrecognizable by its legions of fans today, Scott announced Thursday he will walk away from the game at the end of the season, his 15th with the club.
Affectionately dubbed “Mr. Sounder” by fans who have embraced his determination and durability through the years, Scott is the last player on the current roster who played for the club before the Sounders made their much-celebrated jump to MLS in 2009. He’s also appeared in more games for the club than any other player in franchise history: 347 and counting.
“The time has come for me to turn the page on my soccer career and start a new chapter of my life,” Scott said in a statement. “When I signed with the USL Sounders in 2002, I never imagined that I would have a professional career that lasted 15 years, and it’s been a rare blessing to have played in the same city the entire time. That said, I have much more to offer in this life and I couldn’t be more excited to see what’s next.”
Scott, 36, made the announcement in the Seattle Times, two days before the Sounders host the Vancouver Whitecaps in a pivotal late-season clash at CenturyLink Field on Saturday (1 p.m.; JoeTV/Univision-Seattle/Root Sports outside Seattle/KIRO 97.3 FM/El Rey 1360AM).
A devoted family man with three children he often brings onto CenturyLink Field after Sounders wins, Scott told SoundersFC.com in an exclusive interview this week that his family was a major influence on his lengthy career and his decision to walk away.
“I didn’t grow up saying that I wanted to be a professional soccer player or anything like that…“ Scott said. “It was just something that slowly but surely became more of a reality the longer I played. It was always my goal to play long enough that my kids would remember it. That was it. That was my only goal, so that they would remember what a special time it was for us as a family.
“When we kind of decided as a family that this was it, that was the first thing I wanted to do, make sure that this was the last hurrah. It was fun while it lasted, but we’re going to move on as a family.”
Scott has appeared in 12 games this year (nine starts), marking his sixth straight season with double-digit appearances for the club. He appeared in a career-high 21 games in 2013 and made 18 regular-season appearances during the team’s run to its first Supporters’ Shield in 2014, one of seven trophies Scott won throughout his time in Seattle, including five after the Sounders joined MLS.
“For roughly as long as I’ve been involved with this organization, Zach Scott has been a mainstay of the Seattle Sounders. His longevity and passion for the club are nothing short of incredible, and he has my gratitude for 15 years of decorated service to his coaches and teammates, the overall organization and the city of Seattle,” said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. “We are all so appreciative of everything Zach has done for the club, and while he may be concluding a storied playing career at season’s end, he’ll continue to be a friend of Sounders FC in our community for years to come.”
Despite being a regular starter for the final six of his seven seasons with the USL-1 Sounders, Scott said was ready to retire before the club’s leap to MLS in 2009.
“I was ready to hang ‘em up after 2008, because I knew it was going to be a really difficult jump to get to MLS,” Scott told SoundersFC.com. “I also knew that I would never look back on that opportunity and regret the time or effort that I put into it. At the minimum I would look back and say, ‘You know what? I tried my hardest, but it wasn’t in the cards for me.”
Luckily for the Sounders, the next level was in the cards for Scott, who has appeared in 116 career MLS games and another 13 in the postseason.
Scott, for his part, said he has no regrets about his career or second thoughts about his decision to leave the game he loves, especially after a full and formidable career that defied even his own expectations.
“I’m more than happy with the way things have turned out,” he told SoundersFC.com. “I guess I always that when I decided to retire, I would feel like I didn’t have it anymore, or that I couldn’t play. And that’s not the way I feel now. But I also feel that’s a better way of ending it.”