In Chad Marshall and Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders start defensive rebuild with familiar faces

Eddie Johnson and Chad Marshall in CLBvSEA

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USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t taken long for the Seattle Sounders to give their defense a dramatic facelift.

Coming off their worst defensive performance in five MLS seasons and with a couple months still left in the offseason, the Sounders have already replaced their starting goalkeeper and acquired a former Best XI center back.

In goalkeeper Stefan Frei and defender Chad Marshall, the Sounders also acquired a pair of players they had long coveted.

Frei, who spent his first five seasons in the league with Toronto FC, said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid talked to him about the possibility of picking him in the 2009 SuperDraft.

“I knew early on that they had big things in mind for Seattle, especially with the fans there,” Frei told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. “It shows that they’re a big organization backed by awesome fans. I was ecstatic once I heard I had the opportunity to join the team.”

Schmid’s connection to Marshall goes back even further. He was the defensive rock around whom Schmid built the Columbus Crew from 2006-08. The center back won back-to-back Defender of the Year awards and the Crew won the Supporters’ Shield-MLS Cup double in 2008.

“We had a successful time with Sigi here in Columbus, myself included in that,” Marshall said. “He’s a very demanding coach, and I think he gets the best out of his players. I definitely am looking forward to working with him again.”

Although Marshall has battled various injuries since Schmid left the Crew, the 28-year-old said he’s feeling as good as ever.

“This past year I was pretty healthy,” said Marshall, noting he appeared in 30 of 34 matches. “The year before that I had an ankle thing going on that I got taken care of in the offseason heading into this past season. I feel good now. I didn’t have to have any type of maintenance or anything done this offseason, so I kind of got off on my offseason program a week after our season ended. I’ve been going good with that. Feeling good, feeling healthy, so I’m looking forward to a productive 2014.”

Frei, too, said he’s fully fit after playing just one league game in the past two years. A broken leg and ankle cost him all of 2012, and then a broken nose opened the door for backup Joe Bendik to win the job in 2013.

“It was a long, lengthy process that was just letting it heal, not putting any weight on it, so I had no idea,” he said about the recovery from his broken leg. “I wanted to do whatever I could to get back to the strongest and healthiest I’d ever been, which I think I did. I packed on a lot of muscle during that time, leaned out actually. And in terms of my ankle and my leg, I think it’s stronger than my right side now, which is funny. It was a difficult time, but I think I’ve come back stronger from it.”