#6 Chad Marshall
Realio’s rating: 6.548 in 31 appearances
Community rating: 6.78
Rankinator ranking: #3
MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 5
This rating was a slight drop from his 6.606 last season and #3 Sounder overall, but once again Marshall proved to be a dominant center defender who showed little sign of slowing. His first half of the season was predictably rough, with a rotating crew of players around him, and the 6.19 average in Chad’s first 15 appearances was offset by a stellar 7.07 in the last 15. He still showed great durability, appearing in over 30 matches and adjusting to multiple roles. He was particularly adept at combining with Kim Kee-hee, and these two defenders worked absolutely brilliantly together.
What I liked: It’s Chad Marshall. He was rightfully in the discussion for best defender in the league due to stellar play all year. Chad’s ability to adjust to nearly any teammate and consistently use his positioning and intelligence is better than anyone in the league. This comment from his MOTM effort against RSL aged well: “Chad has shown no obvious signs of slowing down defensively. Based on the opinions of those who are suddenly hindsight geniuses about Dempsey, we should cut Marshall immediately, because even though he still looks good, he’s old or something. In this match he did everything right defensively, and offensively had a number of great headers won that put teammates in positions to score. I’m not sure what more you should expect from him. In this match he was nearly perfect. I didn’t see him get beat, although there wasn’t a ton of action, and he was consistently where he needed to be. On offense, he was a menace on set pieces, continually winning knock downs and pointing the ball towards teammates ... There is no slowing down from Chad, and I see no indication he is somehow injury prone or losing any ability to play the position.”
What I didn’t like: Unfortunately, Chad was hurt in two of the biggest matches of the season, first in Mexico against Chivas in the CCL, and second in Portland in the Western Conference Semifinals. Without Chad, the defense turned porous. A number of times Chad disappeared from games, but his off games were few and far between.
Moving forward: Seattle found a dynamic pairing with Kim’s speed and Marshall’s positioning, and these two were fantastic together. Entrenched as starters, the Sounders can feel great about their starting central defense for the foreseeable future. There is always a fear that an older player might have a sudden drop off (and he did have knee surgery) but like last year with some of the veterans, nothing about Chad’s play indicates he will be anything less than what he is now: one of the absolute best defenders in the league.
#5 Kim Kee-hee
Realio’s rating: 6.581 in 31 appearances
Community rating: 6.69
Rankinator ranking: #6
MOTM = 3 High = 9 Low = 5
The first thing you may notice is Kim outranked Marshall, and deservedly so. Kim was an absolute revelation. An unknown who came to Seattle and after being given spot appearances, he latched on to the starting job in the ninth match of the year and never relinquished it, beating out a quality center defender in Román Torres. Kim showed increasing technique to go with fantastic pace and aggressiveness. His skillset was a near perfect counterpart to Marshall’s, and the connection these two showed was excellent. After settling into the speed and physicality of MLS play, Kim was often the better of the two center defenders. Together these two anchored a phenomenal defense with Kim ranging forward to attack from the back and Marshall expertly protecting behind.
What I liked: With three MOTM awards Kim showed not just good defending, but the ability to take over the game via a position that isn’t known for doing so. He earned one of three “9” ratings on the year for his play against Portland — a game in which he combined near-perfect defensive work with forcing the game-winning goal by getting into the attack. Kim has excellent offensive instincts that consistently allow him into good spots for an attacking center back, but it’s his incredible speed for the position that makes it all work. At times Kim is the fastest player on the field and at his size, it’s an amazing sight. He has game-changing ability on both sides of the ball.
What I didn’t like: If there is an Achilles heel for Kim it’s his aerial ability. Multiple times over the year he was beat as a ball sailed over him onto the head of an opponent. For a guy his size, it’s frustrating to see, and while it rarely hurt the team, he clearly needs to work on anticipation of crosses. He should look to his left to learn from a guy who is impeccable in the air.
Moving forward: Kim fits so neatly into this defense that it’s still a bit shocking. The combination of Kim and Marshall look poised to dominate from game one next season, and Kim’s pace and range support the players around him well. With Kim in the back, other Sounders can take a more offensive mentality, and Kim himself can attack knowing the ever-present Marshall is exactly where he should be.
#4 Víctor Rodríguez
Realio’s rating: 6.667 in 21 appearances
Community rating: 6.71
Rankinator ranking: #9
MOTM = 3 High = 8 Low = 6
Written off by a number of fans, V-Rod showed time and again why he is on a TAM contract. After finally getting some injury concerns figured out by match 11, he then played in 19 of the next 24 matches and in those games, Seattle went 11-5-3 (1.89ppg). Victor was an attacking force, pushing the team higher and combining with others to create chances or score himself (five goals, six assists).
What I liked: Near the end of the season Rodriguez ripped off five “8” grades in eight matches and it was fueled by his wonderful attacking energy. Against a Houston team we had never beaten away: “Rodríguez has been showing well for a while now, but this match was a bit of a coming out for him. It wasn’t his team-leading five shots, 85 percent passing and two goals, but rather his movement and dynamic combination with teammates that completely dominated the match, transforming the offense into a juggernaut while preserving defensive integrity. Rodríguez made everyone around him better all night and his movement mesmerized the Houston defense, creating gaps that he and the rest of the team repeatedly took advantage of.” This is indicative of how Seattle played around the interchangeability of Víctor and Nicolás Lodeiro, combining through the middle to create goals, even in a match missing Raúl Ruidíaz.
What I didn’t like: It’s frustrating that it took 10 matches for Seattle to get this guy ready to go after (an admittedly short) offseason. There is no telling what this team can look like in the first half with more pieces healthy. While he never had a below average outing, there were a few times I would have liked to see a little more from him, as his touch betrayed him in a few critical spots.
Moving forward: We started to see what a fully functional Sounders offense looks like with Ruidíaz, Rodríguez and Lodeiro connecting and creating chances. Adding a few more supplemental pieces (or moving some current ones around) should be a recipe for a strong offense entering the 2019 season. All the components are there, and a healthy Rodríguez is a massive part of the movement and creativity needed from the Sounders midfield.