Roger Levesque and Zach Scott are Sounders FC's lone carry-overs from the USL days, and their leadership will be needed in 2012.
They have been Sounders for a decade, long before the days of rave green.
They are two of the oldest players on the team, but you’d never know it after career years in 2011.
Exceptionally versatile and hardworking, Roger Levesque and Zach Scott are Sounders FC’s only remaining carry-overs from the United Soccer Leagues squad. But beyond their reliability on the field, the two might be most needed for their experience and maturity entering Year 4, especially on a team looking for leaders.
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“You can’t say enough about them,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “Their attitude is great — they come out to practice every day, they have a good work rate, they’re great examples for the younger players.”
Sounders FC kept five USL players in its leap to MLS in 2009: Levesque, Scott, Sebastien Le Toux, Sanna Nyassi and Taylor Graham. Seattle’s USL coach, Brian Schmetzer, also stayed with the organization as Schmid’s top assistant.
That group’s impact has been far greater than just being a link to the Sounders’ past. All the former USL players, minus Graham, saw the field in Seattle’s inaugural MLS game, a 3-0 win against the New York Red Bulls.
“You can argue it all day long, but I’m a strong believer that that group helped form a backbone of (depth for our) expansion team,” said Schmetzer.
Le Toux and Nyassi were lost in expansion drafts in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Graham retired in December. So carrying the USL tradition now falls on Levesque and Scott, both 31 years old.
“We’re not getting any younger,” said a smiling Levesque, who first played for the lower-league Sounders in 2003.
For the duo, age is just a number as both have always been in great shape. Versatility is another shared trait. Levesque played at forward, midfielder and defender last season and expects more of the same this year.
“I kind of bounce around and do what I can to help my team win,” said Levesque, a shaggy-haired fan favorite.
Scott, who signed with the USL Sounders in 2002 after an open tryout, has played every defensive position on the back line. A native Hawaiian, he says he’s in the best shape of his life after training in the offseason with fitness coach Dave Tenney.
“Anywhere I can fit in and anywhere I can help is fine,” said Scott, who is the oldest player on the team by four months following the retirement of Kasey Keller.
Both Scott and Levesque are coming off their best seasons in 2011.
Levesque set MLS career highs last year in just about every statistical category: games (19), starts (nine), minutes (1,062), goals (three), assists (two) and shots (13). Scott established personal bests in games (12), starts (nine) and minutes (864).
As spot starters, however, the pair’s impact is hardly captured by stats. Where Levesque and Scott particularly excel is in practice, where they keep the level of play and effort high. When that pays off in playing time, it can be motivating for younger players and others toward the bottom of the depth chart.
“They’re good examples for the guys who are in reserve roles: ‘Hey, you keep plugging away and good things can happen for you,’ ” said Schmid.
Added Schmetzer: “To (general manager Adrian Hanauer’s) credit, we have always placed a very high value on what a player’s character is on the field as well as off the field. If the guy’s great on the field but he’s (a jerk) off the field, we don’t take that. We don’t take mercenaries. We want people that understand what being a part of this organization stands for, which is more than just performance on the field.”
And that is Levesque and Scott encapsulated.
• G Josh Ford has returned to Seattle from Arizona to undergo medical evaluations. He has been dealing with a knee issue since last season.
• F Sammy Ochoa rejoined the team for Friday’s practices. The forward had stayed in Seattle to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers