Chad Marshall 1017

Defense is simple. All it takes is sticking yourself in-between the ball and its intended target. That’s actually not so simple. Defending in soccer is a mix of anticipating movements, tackling, occupying space and maintaining the team’s shape. Two of the best at this in 2014 are the LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez and Sounders FC’s Chad Marshall.


The two play very similar styles of central defense. They are big, broad-shouldered air winners who can start an attack while defending a cross. Each is the key defensive member along the backline for his respective squad. With LA, Gonzalez leads a line that is the best in MLS at keeping goals out of its net. For Seattle, Marshall became a stalwart that the opposing attack had to avoid.


When deciding upon the Defender of the Year, voters have several choices. Bobby Boswell turned D.C. United around and Sporting Kansas City’s two center backs are always worthy of the vote. On Sunday, two of that short list will stare at each other from 80 yards away. Except on corners, however, when the two could actually mark each other as they are both the primary targets on those plays.


Their advanced numbers are fairly similar. Component stats are from WhoScored.com while the team stats are from MLSSoccer.com.

Chad Marshall
Omar Gonzalez
Tackles per 90
1.6
1.3
Tackle success rate
84%
76%
Interceptions per 90
4.3
2.5
Clearances per 90
6.6
7.7
Shots Blocked per 90
0.8
0.4
Crosses Blocked per 90
0.1
0.4
Aerial Duels won per 90
4.1
4.0
Aerial Duel success rate
75%
73%
Team Goals Against match
1.50
1.03
Team GA when starting per match
1.48
1.10

Marshall comes out the clear leader when looking at the components of defense. He prevents opposing offenses from getting their way better than Gonzalez, while Gonzalez is surrounded by players that statistically help the team-wide numbers. The two players are rated as two of the top five in MLS by WhoScored’s proprietary rating system.


They aren’t just two of the top defenders in MLS. They are two of the best players in the league. Beating either in the air is extraordinarily difficult. Getting past Marshall with balls on the ground is nearly as so, while Gonzalez is nearly as good at that type of defense.


For all the firepower in the two attacks, both teams also offer a center back that shows the best of what American soccer can produce. If either one shuts down the opposing offense in the next two matches, he could get the nod for the 2014 MLS Defender of the Year.

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