Sometimes, no amount of on-field training can prepare a team for the off-the-field obstacles that can pop up. Just ask Sounders FC defender Chad Marshall, who has missed three matches this season because of such off-field obstacles as food poisoning and a car accident.
Now, over one month since he was forced out of action in two matches by a sprained neck that came after he was rear-ended in his car, Marshall feels as good as ever leading a defense that has helped Seattle to a three-match winning streak heading into the home stretch of the 2014 season.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Marshall said at training this week. “It’s frustrating. It’s out of your control. What can you do about it? It’s life sometimes and you just move on.”
Marshall and the Sounders have shown that they have moved on from his brief absence. In the six matches since his return to the fold, Seattle has gone 4-1-1. Defensively, he has helped Seattle to shutouts in two of those six matches, but his contributions have been much greater. Because he is so dominant in the air, Seattle’s midfielders are able to release into the attack much quicker, giving Seattle a much quicker trigger to its counter attack. That has shown in Seattle’s average of 2.16 goals per game since his return.
The All-Star center back also contributed his third assist of the season last week in Seattle’s 4-2 win over Chivas USA, matching his career-high.
Sounders FC is entering another challenging stretch in the calendar, facing a string of five matches in 16 days starting on Friday against Real Salt Lake. Marshall not only has caught his defensive rhythm, but also found the fitness that he struggled with immediately after his return.
“It was tough at the time coming right back into it because with a back injury you can’t really do anything for fitness. I think it took me a little while to get my fitness back where it should be, but the last few games, things have been good,” he said.
Marshall is a player that prides himself on his resiliency. Over his final four seasons with the Columbus Crew, he started 110 matches, a number surpassed by only Drew Moor, Bobby Boswell and Nat Borchers. Now in Seattle, he has started 23 matches with just five center backs in MLS seeing more playing time.
“I’m in my 11th year and I think you’re going to have some injuries, but I feel like I’ve done a good job of taking care of my body,” Marshall said. “It’s just been those freak things that have kept me off the field.”
Forward Chad Barrett has called Marshall the commander of Seattle’s defense, and he has continued to show that it is a title he has earned. With Seattle eyeing a U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup, he will be a key component late in the season.