Only six players in MLS history have played more matches for one club than Chad Marshall’s 253 appearances with the Columbus Crew.
On Saturday, he will face the club he played 10 seasons for when Sounders FC hosts Columbus at CenturyLink Field, but he is doing his best to keep the same approach against the Crew as he would against any other team on any other day.
“It’s a little different, but I just look at it as another home game,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to get three points, but it will be nice to see those guys after the game.”
Marshall has a lot of good memories from his time with the Crew.
He was selected second overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft behind Fredy Adu and stepped right into a starting lineup that featured the likes of Robin Fraser, Duncan Oughton, Chris Wingert and Frankie Hejduk on defense. In 2008, he anchored that defense to Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup titles and was named MLS Defender of the Year. The Crew repeated as Supporters’ Shield winners in 2009 and Marshall earned his second straight Defender of the Year crown.
Slowly, though, that team started disbanding and by this offseason, he was among just three players remaining from the 2008 championship team. Soon, Danny O’Rourke and Andy Gruenebaum also departed and the structure under new owner Anthony Precourt and new Head Coach Gregg Berhalter was taking shape. Marshall decided that after 10 years and so many successes, it might be time for a change of scenery.
“It seemed like I was the last one of that era and I thought it was as good a time as any to look at going somewhere else,” Marshall said. “With them having a new owner and a new coach, they’re obviously starting over.”
In Seattle, Marshall has rekindled some of the fire that helped him to those back-to-back Defender of the Year awards and has already helped Seattle to two shutouts in three matches.
The difference with the 29-year-old California native in the lineup is palpable.
“His physical presence is one that is probably unmatched anywhere in the league. He’s tactically aware, he covers some ground for a center back and he always puts himself in good positions and that comes with experience,” said Seattle’s captain, Brad Evans, who played two seasons with Marshall in Columbus. “First and foremost, he’s here for the team. This is a move that he wanted to make and one where he thought it could jumpstart, in my mind, the best defender in the league. His aerial prowess, as well, is something that he gives us.”
Seattle will look to slow the Crew’s hot start to the 2014 season in which Berhalter’s club has earned wins in both of its first two matches, 3-0 on opening weekend over D.C. United and 2-1 last week over the Philadelphia Union.
Marshall, for one, hopes that success can continue, if only after a brief detour on Saturday.
“I spent 10 years there. I’m always going to be a fan,” Marshall said. “Just not this week.”