Veteran defender Zach Scott is expected to make his sixth consecutive start for Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, and that is a wonder in a couple of ways.
One is that Scott seems to have emerged as coach Sigi Schmid’s first-choice central defender alongside Major League Soccer defender of the year Chad Marshall.
The other is that Scott remains eligible to play after tempting fate with tackles that could have banished him from the first-leg match Sunday, when the Sounders opened their Western Conference championship series with a 1-0 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Scott picked up a yellow card in the 37th minute and continued playing aggressively enough that both the Galaxy and even Schmid expressed surprise that the second card was never shown.
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“I don’t know how else to play, to be honest with you,” Scott said after the match.
That take-no-prisoners style could be part of the reason Scott seems to have emerged as a starting defender after spending most of the season in an uncertain rotation with incumbent Djimi Traore and newcomer Jalil Anibaba.
However, Schmid noted Wednesday that Scott’s inability to ease off the gas pedal also has sometimes worked against him.
“He’s the kind of guy who sometimes over-trained,” Schmid said. ‘And that would cause him sometimes to wear down over a period of time ... he would then wear himself out. So I think he’s learned that, he understands ‘OK, I’m in the lineup, so here’s what I’ve got to do at training and to be ready to play the next week.’”
Scott’s ability to pace himself may have improved, it he hasn’t yet reached the point where he’s willing to say, “OK, I’m in the lineup.”
“A big thing personally is never feeling that I have a job set back there,” he said this week. “You might say that, and you might say that just because I’ve played the last couple of games, but I don’t go into any week thinking that I’m going to start on the weekend. I’ve got to treat every week like it’s got to be good training sessions leading into the weekend and hopefully I’ll be back there. There’s several guys on the team that you can count on being there, but I don’t think I’m one of those guys.”
Scott, 34, has played 305 games with the Sounders dating back to their days in second-division leagues.
He made the jump to the MLS team in its 2009 expansion season. He played in nine games that season, slipped back to four the next year, and then began a steady climb: 12 appearances in 2011, 20 in 2012, and 21 last season. He has appeared in 18 games this season, mostly at center back but sometimes out wide. He is expected to make his MLS career-high 17th start Sunday when the Sounders and Galaxy resolve their aggregate-score series at CenturyLink Field.
“From the very beginning we seemed to have a good understanding of each other,” said Marshall, who on Tuesday won his third MLS defender of the year award. “Zach has been a beast this year. He’s as equally deserving of this award as I am.”
Schmid began his Wednesday media session with a change of longstanding policy. “I’ll save you guys all about five questions here,” he said. “No comment on (the health of midfielder Osvaldo) Alonso. If you guys have a status report on (LA’s A.J. DeLaGarza and Marcelo Sarvas), then I will give you a status report on Alonso.” Schmid had chided Los Angeles-area media last weekend for their inability to view practices or get injury information from Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. … The Sounders get a Thanksgiving break from training. They will return to work Friday and Saturday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.