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Seattle Sounders vs. 2017: End-of-season player ratings, #5

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Wherever you rank him, Chad Marshall had a typically massive year, making every defender around him better.

Chad is such a consistent performer that he earned #5 and #6 on my list this year. Sorry again about my mistake, but this gives an under the radar star a little more pub and I’m okay with that.

#5 Chad Marshall – 6.61 | Community – 6.82

Marshall is just the complete defender. His positioning is immaculate. He takes great angles in defense. He can defend space or body up physically with the best in the league. He’s massively dominant in the air. While he uses his wide body tremendously to his advantage, Chad does so with remarkable finesse. Not the quickest player by any stretch, Marshall’s experience and tactical knowledge mitigate this and any deficiencies while maximizing his strengths. He only committed 12 fouls all season, limiting opponents from dangerous set pieces. On the offensive end Chad remains a target on dead balls, contributing a goal and two assists. He was a huge contributor to the success of the defense, and did so while being able to play either left or right center back.

Ratings were kind to Marshall in 33 appearances with only three grades below average, but this is really quite misleading. One was from an injury in Colorado early that forced him off in the 22nd and another was an 85th minute inclusion as a striker against RSL. On the flip side he earned a tremendous seven ratings of 8. I was surprised to realize he only earned a single MOTM from me this season.

A snippet of the bad:

Coming off an injury in Colorado, Marshall had a poor half against DC United on July 19:

“The opening period was as bad a half as I have seen from Marshall, who looked slow, tentative, and possibly hurt. He is coming off an injury and still has immense soccer intelligence, but the entire defense struggles when he’s not there to bail them out, something that happened on all three goals. In the second half Marshall looked more like himself, due to better positioning, defensive support and our additional offense.”

This was Chad’s first game since being forced off in first half of the previous, and he showed rust and tentativeness working with backup keeper Tyler Miller. For a few moments it looked like maybe all the age concerns people have had regarding Marshall over the past five years were finally accurate.

Marshall quickly put this thinking to rest, averaging 7.25 over his next four matches.

After seven straight games of MLS average 6 rating from me to start the year, Dad averaged a full point higher over his next twelve. Dealing with a rotating defense around him, Marshall was steady.

A snippet of the good:

Marshall showed how he can help control the possession from the back, in the third match of an unprecedented run of passing accuracy on June 4:

“The Houston game was Chad’s third game in a row without misplacing a pass; this is so valuable to a Sounders team that wants to control the tempo of play and dictate possession. Every time Marshall completes a pass, it’s one less chance for an opponent to put pressure on the defense and allows the backline to get into defensive position. To not misplace a single pass out of hundreds is spectacular. He also had six headers won, six clearances, two interceptions, and four tackles won in a complete performance.”

Marshall earned MOTM for a massive defensive effort in the 2-2 draw in Portland on June 25:

“Everyone on the backline had a rollercoaster of a game except Chad. Boring game from Marshall as usual: 90% passing rate, five clearances, two interceptions, three blocked shots, and zero fouls committed to a constantly diving Adi. I had zero negative marks for Marshall on the night and even when forced into a three-man backline, Chad just went about his business stopping guys from putting the ball in the net.”

Even down a man, Marshall just went about his business of stopping everything, preventing Fanendo Adi from getting by him, and distributing perfectly out of the back. His quiet leadership had a lot to do with this comeback.

Chad gets through his work while not committing fouls, continually being in the right place to stop attacks, or sliding in behind teammates to support their defensive duties. His defense makes those around him better, and his passing allows Seattle to dictate the pace of the match. It’s important to value the casual header that Marshall wins over a striker — it almost always goes to a teammate. He rarely clears needlessly, often finding a Sounder in space to move the ball forward. His communication with Stefan Frei was fantastic this year, and Marshall again improved his grades in the postseason, earning a 7.20 over his five matches played. When a guy’s minimum playoff grade is league average over a multiple year stretch, that’s a good player.

Marshall is a top 3 centerback in the league and clear starter every game he is healthy. If the team signs someone like Evans who can fill in for congested weeks throughout the year, it’s likely Marshall could (and should) see a rest here and there, especially avoiding long flights.