With the breaking news that Dad Marshall is retiring, I wanted to pay him my respects through the lens of my ratings column. I hope to show just how easy it is for me to call Marshall the best defender in Sounders (and MLS) history. I have only spoken to Chad a few times, and he can be a bit hard to read, but he is an absolutely adored person both inside and outside of the locker room. While pieces came and went from the defense around him, he was a steadying, dominant soccer presence for his five-plus years on the Sounders backline, and his departure will be a huge loss for the team in multiple ways.
I started sharing my analysis in 2014 and started officially rating Sounders matches for SaH in 2015. From then until today I have rated every single regular- and post-season MLS match as well as many CCL and Open Cup games. Chad has played an amazing average of 35 rated matches per year, appearing in a whopping 86% of the available games from 2015-2018. His durability and exceedingly high level of play has been nothing short of amazing in that time. A Defensive Player of the Year candidate in every season in Seattle, the ease with which Marshall defended via perfect positioning and execution was awe-inspiring. Marshall did this while rarely committing fouls, able to simply be constantly better than his opponents. The ratings show that Marshall was one of the best players on the team year after year, but they also reflect how he managed to elevate his level of play when it mattered the most, in the playoffs.
Regular Season Rating: 6.828
Playoff Rating: 8.33
Marshall arrived in 2014 but my first ratings started in his second year. In 2015 he had 29 appearances while leading a back line that also consisted of Leo Gonzales, Brad Evans, and Tyrone Mears, with Ozzie Alonso defending the space in front of them. He was the highest-rated of all these players, followed by Evans’ 6.571. Chad was the 4th highest-rated player on the entire team (of players who played more than 7 games), following Clint Dempsey, Stefan Frei, and Obafemi Martins.
When it came time to step up, Chad got even better—Marshall was the highest-rated player on the entire team in the playoffs in 2015 with a fantastic 8.33 average rating from 8, 8, and 9 individual match ratings.
Regular Season Rating: 6.70
Playoff Rating: 7.5
The early part of 2016 was defined by the abrupt exit of Obafemi Martins before the season began, and the team struggled in the league until the dismissal of Sigi Schmid and promotion of Brian Schmetzer halfway through the year. Chad played 30 matches and earned 3 MOTM awards on a backline with Joevin Jones, Roman Torres, and Tyrone Mears, with Ozzie Alonso and Cristian Roldan defending in front of them. Of this group, Chad’s 6.70 rating trailed only Alonso’s cumulative 6.84
During the incredible playoff and MLS Cup-winning run, Marshall had the 3rd-highest rating on the team, following only the amazing stats of newly-arrived Nicolas Lodeiro and Stefan Frei’s (both had 7.67) with his own six-game average rating of 7.5.
Regular Season Rating: 6.5
Playoff Rating: 7.2
In 2017, the Sounders’ defense changed again after the exit of Mears and the revolving door of injured right backs saw the club bring in Kelvin Leerdam late in the season to play the last 15 matches. The left back position fluctuated between Nouhou and Jones for most of the season and right back was a mess of injuries and experiments, while early-season fitness issues plagued Torres. Marshall remained stalwart as usual though, averaging 6.5 for his entire 28-match season. In those appearances, Chad trailed only Roldan (6.879), Nico (6.697), and Dempsey (6.655) of players who played more than 15 matches.
Marshall was even better in the playoffs, playing in all five matches and raising his average to 7.2 despite the team’s loss to Toronto in the final.
Regular Season Rating: 6.6
Playoff Rating 5 (hurt)
Last year seems so long ago already, but it’s not hard to forget that as usual, Marshall was tremendous. He had the 6th-highest rating on the entire team with a 6.6 regular season cumulative average rating. Marshall, er, marshaled a backline that was primarily Nouhou, himself, Kim Kee-Hee, and Leerdam, with Gustav Svensson and Alonso immediately in front of the defense. He trailed Raul Ruidiaz, Lodeiro, Svensson, Victor Rodriguez and ended up barely behind Kim (6.621 overall) at the end of the season.
The playoffs, however, told a much different and more depressing story. Marshall was unfortunately injured in the first half against Portland in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals and didn’t play the rest of the series.
Regular Season Rating: 6.125
I suppose the writing was on the wall a bit this year, as Marshall’s rating dropped considerably and he missed a few matches despite a strong start. Marshall started in eight of ten matches to open the season, and Seattle went 5-0-3 during that time to achieve the greatest start in franchise history. But Marshall’s injury issues started to creep in after that period, and it was clear that he wasn’t at his best. Despite that, it’s telling to me that even though he struggled mightily with his knee injury this season, he was STILL better than the average MLS defender. Out of eight appearances Marshall made in 2019, half received exceptional 7 ratings.
Overall, Chad Marshall earned a 6.657 in 139 rated appearances from me, and his all-time ranking on Realio’s Ratings (2015-2018) is FIFTH out of 59 players rated. Preceding him on the all-time Sounders list are Raul Ruidiaz (22 apps), Nico Lodeiro (86 apps), Obafemi Martins (24 apps), and Victor Rodriguez (36 apps).
I guess I’ll (sadly) do this one more time:
Chad Marshall – 10 (BMLSDE)
Dad is going to retire and, frankly, I still have likely underrated him this year as much as I did throughout his Sounders career. For some reason, Marshall just hasn’t ever been appreciated as much as he deserves, and it showed when I was researching this column. Something I realized over the years is that, when you are so good, you make the difficult look effortless. It’s easy to overlook just how simple Chad made the game look at times. His positioning is the best I have ever seen in this league, and it’s not even close. When rating Marshall, he was often unfairly compared to himself, and this year especially I caught myself comparing him to versions of himself that weren’t carrying a nagging, eventual career-ending injury. That’s the problem with being the best (ever) at your position. There is no one better to compare to besides yourself, and there is literally no scale to rate against. Chad is one of the few players who likely deserved higher grades, merely because there was no way to accurately describe his play vs an “average”. Every year he was great, and then he topped that by somehow consistently improving his output in the playoffs.
Things I liked: In the 139 matches I rated Chad Marshall, I never once rated Dad under 5. That is absolutely incredible, and to me a perfect example of Chad himself: calm, effective, and amazingly consistent at a high level for YEARS.
Things I didn’t like: After being relatively injury-free for most of his Sounders tenure, an innocuous twist at Portland (of all places) eventually ended his career. 40 minutes in Portland and his knee just hasn’t recovered. I absolutely hate that my last rating for him was a 5.
Going forward: Chad knows what’s best for his body, and he has decided to hang up the boots after a remarkable career. The league damn well better name that DPOY trophy after him. The good news is that he has hopefully had his last concussion scare, will now have plenty of time to enjoy his beautiful family, and he can start filming his cross-country RV buddy comedy with B-Rad. The bad news is Seattle loses an absolutely incredible player, person, and leader. He’s still a part of the team, and in his own immortal words “LETS WIN ANOTHER ONE!”; I wanna see Dad dance on CenturyLink Field one last time on November 10th.