On Thursday, Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said that defender Chad Marshall deserves to be in consideration for a call to the U.S. National Team as it prepares for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Marshall used Seattle's 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union at CenturyLink Field on Saturday as 90 minutes of support for his coach's praise, blocking six shots and netting the game-winning goal in yet another dominating performance for the 10-year MLS veteran. If that opportunity doesn't come up when US National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann calls his roster into camp next week, it will be less about what Marshall has done with Sounders FC since joining Seattle in an offseason trade than it is about Klinsmann's confidence in the core of defenders already in place.
"I think Marshall is a good enough center back in comparison to the center backs with the national team that he deserves consideration," Schmid said. "Unfortunately the train is pretty far away from the station at this point. Do you really want to change and drop him onto the train at this stage? That's really Jurgen's decision. Does he want to alter the group and bring a new presence into that group at this stage? That probably hurts Chad as much as anything, but in terms of quality, I think he has the right to be in the discussion."
On Saturday, he had his best game of the year defensively even before the 84th minute when he scored the game-winning goal against the Union to propel Seattle into the top spot in MLS with a 6-2-1 record.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei needed just one save to earn the victory despite the Union attempting 15 shots in the match. That is due in large part to the eight shots that were blocked by Seattle, led by six from Marshall.
"I'm a big guy. I'm just trying to get in the way. I think everyone on the whole team is willing to sacrifice their body to keep them out of the net. Luckily I was able to get a couple today," Marshall said. "When they're in the 18 you want to minimize their chances on goal and you'll do whatever you can to block or alter a shot."
Those blocks put on display many of Marshall's defensive strengths.
In the 19th minute, Philadelphia forward Andrew Wenger took a run at Marshall with nothing but open space behind him and as Wenger wound up to shoot, Marshall lunged in to make the block, then chased down the loose ball to send it up the sideline to Brad Evans.
In the 43rd minute, Sebastien Le Toux got free in the box and took a slight misstep before shooting, allowing Marshall enough time to get in front of the shot for his second block of the first half, then he blocked a third shot moments later.
"He's a good defender—that's the reason he's here. We felt he could help us get further as a team and do better. I think he is a quality player and one of the best center backs in the league," Schmid said. "His 1v1 defending - even when their fast guys go 1v1 against him - you don't see him get beat. His first step is really good, he knows how to use his body. He is a calm, smart defender."
Schmid coached Marshall for three seasons with the Columbus Crew from 2006-2008, helping him progress into a player that won MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2008 and 2009, making him one of just two players in league history to win the award in consecutive seasons.
Evans was also his teammate in 2007 and 2008 and saw first-hand what he can bring to a team when he is at his best. He has also seen the best of the U.S. National Team in his 17 caps, 10 of which came last year when he moved into the starting right back role, seeing the likes of the LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler from Sporting Kansas City and Clarence Goodson of the San Jose Earthquakes.
"Nobody wants to play against him because you don't have any joy and that's been for the last 10 years. He's just a menace," said Evans. "He should be talked about more because he's probably, if not the best defender, one of the top two center backs. It's not up to me and I know Omar and Besler and Clarence have been good throughout the past couple years and have been consistent, but I think Chad definitely deserves to be talked about. Whether or not it's too little too late for that, he's going to keep playing as if tomorrow's the last game because that's how he plays. I think he deserves a shot, for sure."
Marshall was on the preliminary roster for the U.S. ahead of the 2010 World Cup, but did not make the trip to South Africa, where the U.S. was ousted in the Round of 16 by Ghana.
Klinsmann expects his 30-man preliminary roster to be in camp on May 14 with three tune-up matches on the schedule against Azerbaijan on May 27, Turkey on June 1 and Nigeria on June 7. The U.S. opens the World Cup on June 16 against Ghana.