Over the past few seasons, Sounders FC has sought a defender who can lock down opposing strikers through dominating play in the air and a physical presence that makes opponents think twice about challenging him.
In Chad Marshall, Seattle believes it has found that player, but his addition isn’t the only one that could be a difference-maker for the Sounders in 2014, as a rebuilt defense around the 10-year MLS veteran and two-time MLS Defender of the Year looks to shore up a back line that allowed 13 goals over the final five matches of the 2013 season.
“I feel good about the fact that we got Chad because I think he’s one of the best defenders in the league,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “He has consistently, in all his years in the league, done very well. He brings a certain calmness to our back line. He has the ability to win balls in the air and that enhances us on set pieces.”
Marshall joins a defense that includes 2013 MLS All-Star and finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year DeAndre Yedlin, 2005 UEFA Champions League winner Djimi Traore and World Cup veteran Leo Gonzalez. Additionally, Seattle brought in Jalil Anibaba, who can play center back or right back, in a trade with the Chicago Fire and Damion Lowe, the No. 8 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft to go with 13th-year Seattle defender Zach Scott and rising left back Dylan Remick.
It is a versatile group that features pieces that complement each other well, but also has the star power to be difference-makers.
Primary among them is Yedlin, a second-year defender and Seattle native that took the league by storm in 2013.
In addition to his All Star appearance, Yedlin also played in the FIFA U-20 World Cup and in February earned his first cap with the U.S. National Team, making a substitute appearance in a friendly against South Korea. Now, Schmid said, he needs to continue his progress in 2014.
“The growth has got to continue now. I think what happens when you get called into the national team and you have that success early on, you sort of stagnate for a little bit and then you get back to work and you push forward again,” Schmid said. “Development is never a straight up hill. It’s always up a little bit and then plateau before you go up again. This has got to be an up year again for him.”
A focus for Yedlin this year to continue that development is on his individual defending and the final quality when he goes on the attack – whether it is on a cross, shot or final pass.
Seattle now has Marshall controlling the middle and Anibaba as an option to join him and provide cover when Yedlin makes his attacking runs up the right side. It’s a strength that Seattle will look to exploit.
“We like to use his speed and send him down the line. There’s a constant awareness of getting him back in certain situations and making sure we’re talking to him so he’s not going all the time. But also, when he does go, make sure we’re shifting,” Marshall said. “We want him to go and be dangerous going forward as much as possible.”
In Gonzalez, Seattle has a strong 1v1 defender who also isn’t afraid to get forward on the left side. Traore is another veteran presence that showed last year that there is still plenty of soccer left in his 34-year-old body.
DeAndre Yedlin; 20 years old, 5’8”, 150 pounds; 31 GP, 1 G, 2 A.
Chad Marshall; 29 years old, 6’4”, 190 pounds; 253 GP, 16 G, 10 A.
Djimi Traore; 34 years old, 6’3”, 191 pounds; 27 GP, 1 G, 0 A.
Leo Gonzalez; 33 years old, 6’1”, 174 pounds; 98 GP, 1 G, 3 A.
Jalil Anibaba; 25 years old, 6’, 180 pounds; 96 GP, 4 G, 5 A.
Zach Scott; 33 years old, 5’11”, 175 pounds; 66 GP, 1 G, 1 A.
Damion Lowe; 20 years old, 6’3”, 175 pounds; No MLS experience.
Dylan Remick; 22 years old, 6’, 165 pounds; 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A.