Defense being defined by Marshall's dominance in first year with Sounders

There is no shortage of capable forwards in MLS, so having a player of Chad Marshall’s caliber on the backline gives Sounders FC a defensive weapon that few teams in the league can boast.

One objective for Sounders FC against Chivas USA on Saturday was to limit the scoring chances for young Mexican striker Erick Torres. Already with five goals on the season, the 21-year-old had proven to be a handful for many Chivas opponents. However, outside of a penalty kick in the fifth minute that he converted, Torres was silenced for most of his 79 minutes against Seattle thanks in large part to the stellar defensive play of Marshall, who is proving to be an outstanding offseason addition for Sounders FC.

“I thought Chad was good again. I thought he did a really good job on Torres. He really bottled him up,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “He won everything in the air, obviously, but I thought he did a really good job 1v1 defending against him as well.”

At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Marshall is a mountain of a man in the back for Seattle. With 10 years of experience in Major League Soccer, he knows just how to use that sizable frame to win headers, muscle his mark off the ball and create a dominating presence along Sounders FC’s back line.

The entire league was aware of his abilities in his 10 seasons with the Columbus Crew, where he won the 2008 MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield in 2008 and 2009, also winning MLS Defender of the Year honors in those two seasons. Now through seven matches for Sounders FC he is reminding teams just why he received such individual accolades and had so much team success in that time.

“He’s playing awesome. He’s holding it down and composed and always in the right position,” said Sounders FC captain Brad Evans, who teamed with Marshall in Columbus in 2007 and 2008. “The aerial threat is always going to be there and he plays with passion and heart and you can’t say enough about him. He’s just playing so well right now.”

In addition to locking up opposing strikers, Marshall also opens up opportunities for his teammates going forward and allows them to focus on their own tasks while also taking an occasional risk on the defensive side of the ball.

“It gives me more freedom to get up in the attack. It’s definitely good for me,” smiled DeAndre Yedlin. “When he’s going up for a header, you know he’s going to win it. It just gives you a little more peace of mind.”

That ability to win balls in the air can also turn threatening balls from the opposition into strings of possession and attacking possibilities for Seattle. And with Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda in front of him, Seattle has been able to hold a lot of possession after Marshall wins possession on aerial balls.

“We’re very confident that Chad’s going to win the head ball and the 1v1 duels so Ozzie and Gonzo can almost be in advance of the ball a little bit more,” Evans said. “It helps us out a lot transitionally and that’s the number one thing.”

Marshall and Sounders FC will host their next three matches, starting on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field. The match is scheduled for a 1 pm PT kick with local television coverage on Q-13 FOX and regional coverage on ROOT Sports.

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