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Center-Halves And Full of Goals

Chad Marshall's fourth goal elevated him into an elite group of Seattle goal-scoring central defenders, including one who led Sounders in scoring.

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Photos Mike Russell/Sounder at Heart

Down through the years, Seattle certainly can claim its share of goal-scoring central defenders. Beginning with David Gillett driving home a corner kick in ’74 and renewed through Chad Marshall’s flick to the far corner versus Chicago, the big backline boys have often proven the difference between victory and defeat, at both ends of the pitch.

This year alone, three of Marshall’s four goals have translated to five additional points in an extremely tight playoff race. Time will tell the true importance of that header, although it wasn’t Marshall’s first big score. There was the late winner vs. Philly in ’14 and the added time strike at Dallas in the playoffs a year ago.

Whether in the opponent’s box or his own, Marshall’s works are textbook, efficient, clinical in application. As for center back goals, it’s doubtful he will ever deliver with the panache of Djimi Traore’s long-distance, aggregate equalizer against Tigres or Patrick Ianni’s sidewinder extraordinaire vs. Sporting KC.

Four Goals is Significant

Still, the fact Marshall has produced four goals with still four matches to play is significant. No central defender in the last 28 years has proven so fruitful at the attacking end.

Grant Gibbs, the homegrown (Kent) with the curly blonde locks, was a staple in FC Seattle’s set plays. Gibbs scored four times in just 11 games when the Storm won the Western Soccer League title in 1988. Much like Marshall, three of those were set-up by corners.

Rockets from Rioch

Three of the most memorable goals from an unleashed stopper or sweeper during the NASL era came within a three-week span and courtesy of the same lethal left foot.

Bruce Rioch had been a midfielder for Derby County and Scotland before Alan Hinton, his former teammate, converted him to defense in 1980. Rioch and fellow center back Ian Bridge, the young Canadian, each scored four goals–eight total–during that glorious, 25-7 season.

Playing a "spare back" role (no marking assignment), Rioch loved to push upfield, as Dallas found out in 1980. Rioch drove forward out of midfield unmarked and then let fly with a 25-yard howitzer that nearly decapitated the keeper. Ten minutes later came a rocket free kick from a similar distance. The sweetest, however, was saved for Toronto and former Sounders favorite Tony Chursky.

Rioch smashed the ball ferociously past the wall and Chursky from 30 yards. To Seattle fans, Rioch was Roberto Carlos before Roberto Carlos: perhaps the only defender whose mere possession of the ball in the offensive third elicited widespread urges of "shooooot!"

His Name was Bond, Kevin Bond

Yet the gold standard of all offensive-minded central defenders will likely always be Kevin Bond. After all, there’s never been another Seattle center-half to lead his side in scoring, let alone finish among a first division’s top 20. In 1981, when Sounders forwards were mired in a collective slump, Bond supplied 16 goals in NASL play, 19 in all competitions.

A dozen of those goals were delivered from the spot. Bond converted a league-record 11-for-11 penalties, plus another in cup play. Still, that leaves five league and a total of eight goals altogether from free kicks and open play.

Bond arrived from Norwich City as a promising young (23) player and a proclivity for scoring, although nothing on the scale of this particular summer. So why not just play forward?

"I don’t think I’m good enough to be one," Bond admitted. "When you play up front, they expect you to score. I wouldn’t like to be under that much pressure to score goals week in and week out. I don’t think I’m that good at it."

He once went nine matches without scoring, but then responded with 11 over the next 10 outings.

Goals, Glorious Goals

A fullback at the outset, Bond shifted into the middle due to injuries and made himself at home, or part-time home as it turned out. Bond was adventurous at times, to the point of being briefly benched. Two goals came off the run of play when he pushed up. Like Rioch, he sometimes factored on the front end of set plays (netting one goal on a blast) as well as the back post (two headers off corners, two more from free kicks).

Bond remains the only defender to claim at hat trick, and his brace in the Meadowlands brought the Sounders back from the dead–2-nil down to the Cosmos– in the Trans-Atlantic Cup final, which Seattle tied up, 3-3, to take the trophy.

Better still, following the season Hinton essentially flipped blonde Bond scoring sensation, selling him along to his dad, John, at Manchester City for a significant increase over his purchase seven months earlier.

Whether on or off the field, Bond was good for business.

Frank MacDonald is a Seattle soccer journalist and historian. This story first appeared on his website and has been republished here with his permission.