SEATTLE (AP) — On a chilly night in the shadow of the Space Needle, Zach Scott returned to the field where his career with the Seattle Sounders began to say goodbye.
Back at Memorial Stadium, the same venue where Scott was first discovered during an open tryout for the USL version of the Seattle Sounders in 2002, the club honored Scott’s 15 seasons with different incarnations of the franchise.
It was a joint effort between the club and its main supporters’ group, the Emerald City Supporter, to say thanks to Scott for a career which he will be remembered as “Mr. Sounder.” Former teammates from all stages of Scott’s career turned out for a “testimonial match” in recognition of what Scott became as a capable defender and stalwart in franchise history. And in soccer-crazed Seattle, an event like this meant a few thousand fans turning out for a non-competitive match, complete with a tifo specifically designed for Scott, followed by flares and green smoke filling up the aging venue where Scott got his start.
“Everybody out here celebrating my career won’t ever feel right but in that same vain in was very cool to have everybody out here,” Scott said.
Testimonial matches are common in European and South American soccer to recognize a player for long service to one club. But they’re rarities in the U.S. and in MLS because it’s rare for a player to have such long service with one club. The first testimonial match in MLS took place in 2013 with the Houston Dynamo honoring Brian Ching.
Scott’s career began with the USL version of the Sounders in 2002 and concluded after winning the club’s first MLS Cup title last year. Scott had contemplated walking away from the game at times earlier in his career and announced his decision well before Seattle’s run to the championship.
The title made the perfect bookend to an unexpected career.
No current Seattle players took part with the season opener on Saturday at Houston. Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonzo, two original MLS Sounders along with Scott, served as coaches and the likes of Kasey Keller, Chris Henderson, Steve Zakuani and Gonzalo Pineda took part.
“I haven’t put the gloves on for five years but made sure to do it for tonight,” Keller said.
The night had its lighter moments, including Keller doing an on-field interview during the run of play and various players feigning injuries. Most entertaining was the interaction between Scott and his 11-year-old son Kalei playing on opposite teams. The son even tried slide tackling a ball away from his dad at one point in the first half and scored two goals in the second half, once beating his dad off the dribble.
“That was fun. He’s a great kid and that’s the biggest joy of my life is being here with my family and getting to experience that,” Scott said.