Tyrone Marshall came to the Colorado Rapids in the offseason a little unsure about exactly where his playing career was headed.
Deemed surplus to requirements with the Seattle Sounders, the Jamaican veteran thought he would fill in here and there for a new team that solely needed him for backup. The Rapids, after all, kept the core of their MLS Cup-winning side intact last winter, but would need some help this year with an expanded league schedule and a run in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Perhaps one more year, Marshall figured, and then off into the sunset in some of kind of coaching capacity.
Fast-forward a few months and Marshall, who last weekend celebrated his 300th MLS appearance, is suddenly a regular on the Rapids back line. He was even recently — and most unexpectedly — called into the Jamaican national team camp for the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament starting next month.
“Hard work pays off,” Marshall told MLSsoccer.com by phone ahead of the team’s 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. “I think I’ve still got it physically and mentally and, once you are playing, everything seems to come back.”
And that was Marshall’s biggest problem in Seattle. Despite starting the second leg of the team’s Western Conference semifinal series against LA, his 14 starts during the regular season were the lowest of his career since his 1998 rookie season.
This season he’s already started seven games on the Colorado back line, pairing at central defender with either Drew Moor or Marvell Wynne. He didn’t play against the Red Bulls — head coach Gary Smith said it would be a “big ask,” in part because Marshall went the distance in the Rapids’ scoreless draw last Sunday against Toronto — but he’ll be back for another start when the Rapids host Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
“If you sit on the bench,” Marshall said, “your sharpness does go away.”
The Sporting game, however, could be Marshall’s last Rapids game for a while. Once considered all but retired from the international ranks, Marshall is back in the picture with Jamaica, and he’ll join them in Brazil for pre-Gold Cup training next week.
Marshall said he spoke with Jamaican coach Theodore Whitmore in January 2010 after an international game against Canada about the excessive demands on his aging body while playing for both club and country. But he never really turned his back completely on the national team.
“That game was really my farewell game, but I also told him that, 'If you need me, if I’m playing and am in good shape, then I could be available,'” Marshall said.
Smith, meanwhile, hinted there may still be some conversations Marshall needs to have with the Jamaican coach about exactly what his role will be in the tournament. Smith doesn’t want him to go if he is just a back-up.
Marshall, though, sees himself as a calming, experienced influence in the back to help some of the younger Jamaican players in such a big tournament. Still, he echoed Smith’s sentiments.
“I hope I will be paying,” he said. “If not, I may as well just stay with my club team.”
It’s unclear how the issue will be resolved, but here’s what’s certain: Seattle’s loss has certainly been Colorado’s gain, and Marshall knows exactly where he stands now.
“We’ll all be extremely disappointed to see him go for two to three weeks, as he has been such a good pick-up for us,” Smith said. “Tyrone has been incredible value. He is such a terrific lad with all sorts of qualities, only half of which you see on the field. He has fitted in brilliantly.”