Chad Marshall has done this interview before.
He doesn’t talk to the media too often, but that doesn’t mean the Seattle Sounders center back isn’t familiar with how all of this works. He’ll answer a few questions about his sparkling 15-year MLS career, talk a bit about never really getting a look with the US men’s national team, explain how he’s just a low-key homebody content to play Barbie with his 4-year-old daughter and tool around with his Xbox, maybe throw in an anecdote or two about a famous locker room prank.
Get in, get out. The usual.
“I think I’m a pretty introverted guy. I’m pretty to myself, kind of socially awkward, but once I get to know you and I’m comfortable around you, which is obviously like when I’m in the locker room setting, I can be goofy, silly,” Marshall, who last week became the second field player in MLS history to reach 400 career regular-season appearances and 35,000 minutes played, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “That’s when the stories that you hear, the dancing, the nudity, stuff like that, it comes out.”
Hold up. The nudity?
“Well, I was kind of known in Columbus for doing naked cartwheels around the locker room,” he continued with a laugh. “So, once [Crew SC] won MLS Cup in 2008, of course there was a naked cartwheel chant that got going. I had to do it in the locker room with all the media already in there. That was a pretty good story. I’m happy no pictures or video have leaked of that over the last 10 years, but yeah, there’s just a bunch of stuff like that.”
Talk to anyone who’s played with Marshall since he was drafted by Columbus out of Stanford with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 SuperDraft, and chances are they’ll have a Chad story. Chances are, it’ll involve some nudity. Seattle forward Will Bruin has one, laughing as he describes how Marshall regularly dances naked around a trash can that the Sounders use as a locker room basketball hoop.
“He’ll just randomly come out of the shower and start dancing around completely naked, jumping super high, spreading his legs out and stuff,” said Bruin. “It’s pretty funny. It’s hard to describe and it probably sounds pretty weird, but when you see it, it’s just kind of, ‘What the hell’s going on?’”
Bruin was quick to share his funniest Marshall memories, but he was even more eager to talk up how good he thinks the 34-year-old is on the field. By just about any measure, Marshall is one of the top defenders in MLS history. He’s won Defender of the Year a record three times, and as the anchor of a Sounders defense that’s conceded the second-fewest goals in the league this season, is a strong contender to claim the award again in 2018, something Bruin campaigned for on Twitter earlier this week.
“Chad’s probably the most consistent player, certainly the most consistent center back in the league,” said Bruin, who battled against Marshall on numerous occasions over his six seasons with the Houston Dynamo before he was traded to Seattle in December 2016.
“He’s up there for sure as one of the best center backs I’ve played against. Now, just seeing him everyday in training, playing against him, it kind of makes it not as daunting when you go into weekends and play against other center backs. I say Chad’s up there, definitely top three.”
Consistency has perhaps been the defining characteristic of Marshall’s career. Apart from his remarkable aerial game, his skills don’t necessarily jump out at you. It’s his ability to play at the league’s highest level for a decade and a half that has allowed him to reach significant career milestones.
“I’m proud to have hit those numbers,” he said. “I mean, to be honest, I had no idea that I was my 400th game until our coach said that in the locker room before, but that was definitely a goal of mine. I can remember sitting down, I think maybe a couple of years ago with [former Sounder and current team broadcaster] Steve Zakuani in a preseason interview and saying that I wanted to get to 400 games played, so it means a lot. I’m extremely grateful.”
His steadiness is one of his best attributes as a player, but there’s a case to be made that it’s played a role in holding back his career. Any discussion of Marshall inevitably arrives at the fact that he never got much of a look with the USMNT. He only has 12 career caps, and he didn’t receive a single call-up between May 2010 and January 2017. For Bruin, Marshall’s consistency meant he never really popped like other players that made a big jump year-to-year in MLS or moved to Europe.
“People come to just expect it of him, you know? If there were other people coming to this league and playing at the level he’s playing, they would get blown up so much more than he’s blown up,” said Bruin. “I think it’s something that people take for granted. They just expect it and they go, ‘Oh, that’s just Chad being Chad,’ when he really should get more credit for playing at a very high level consistently for a lot of years.
“He’s for sure one of those guys that got away [from the USMNT].”
For Marshall, who had offers to go to Europe after he won that MLS Cup with Columbus in 2008 but chose to remain in MLS, his lack of involvement with the national team is one of the only things he wishes was different about his otherwise glittering career.
“I mean I’ll just say that I wish I had been a bigger part of the national team. I think that’s something I’ll look back on in my career and regret not being a bigger part of,” he said. “But there’s probably a lot of players that feel the same way. I had some unfortunate injuries earlier on in my time there and missed some January camps and stuff like that because of injury, and maybe that set me on a bad pace. But I don’t know. It didn’t work out. Like you said, I’ve been asked this a lot. It’s something that didn’t happen, and it just comes down to a coach’s opinion of you.”
At his age, Marshall knows that the time has passed for him to make an impact on the international level. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have plenty left to play for with the Sounders. The two-time MLS Cup champion and four-time Supporters’ Shield winner wants to lift more trophies, and he’s eyeing another deep postseason run with Seattle once they wrap the regular season Sunday against San Jose (4:30 pm ET | TV and streaming info).
After that, it’ll be another offseason of preparation – and questions about his future. Marshall loves being on the field, but he doesn’t ingest the game in the way it’s assumed most pros do. He keeps up with MLS opponents, of course, but he largely gets away from soccer when he’s not with the Sounders. He feels he has plenty left in the tank, but he’s comfortable with what he’s accomplished on the club level.
Maybe even as comfortable as he is after a post-training shower.
“I don’t know, man. That’s the question every offseason or every birthday. As long as I feel like I’m performing at a level that I’m comfortable with or I feel like is at a high enough level, I want to keep playing, so I guess that’s a year-to-year thing,” he said. “I don’t have like, ‘Oh, I want to get to this number or this many games played’ kind of thing. It’s really just going off feeling every year. But I still feel good. I don’t feel like I’ve lost that step yet, like the say. But as soon as I’m not able to play the game at the level I want to play it at, I’ll be fine walking away and being happy with what I’ve done.”