OBETZ, Ohio — There have been times, most notably at the end of the 2007 season, when Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall could not fathom still playing, much less last Saturday becoming only the fourth MLS field player to accumulate more than 20,000 minutes with the same team.
But there he was in the 59th minute vs. the Philadelphia Union at Crew Stadium — a 1-1 draw — reaching the milestone while manning the center back position, just as he has done since being the second overall pick (behind Freddy Adu) in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.
It's far different than being out the final two months of 2007 after suffering concussion symptoms and thinking about a tenuous future.
"I've always tried to stay positive but you definitely have those times when you're sitting there for eight weeks and you still have a headache and wonder if you're still going to play," he told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday.
Play he did. He rebounded the next season to be named the MLS Defender of the Year as the Crew won their first MLS Cup and repeated the honor in 2009 as the team won a second straight Supporters' Shield.
"He's been a rock for us for so many years and hopefully will be for a few more," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said.
Columbus rewarded Marshall, 28, with a new contract in December 2011 that carries through the 2015 season and keeps his dream alive.
"I've always said I've admired those guys who've spent their whole career with one club," he said while emphasizing he has no thoughts of retiring soon. "That being said, I know it's a business and things change quickly, but I'd love to finish my career here."
Marshall's 20,032 minutes are a club record although not the most carried by someone on the team. Midfielder Eddie Gaven has played 22,148 minutes — but 5,526 of those were for the MetroStars from 2003 through '05.
"For him to reach 20,000 with the same team shows how much he means to this club," Gaven said.
Only retired Chicago Fire defender C.J. Brown (25,738 minutes), retired LA Galaxy attacker Cobi Jones (25,157) and current Fire midfielder Logan Pause (20,530) have played more field minutes with a single club than Marshall.
"It's a cool list to be on," Marshall said. "I'm happy to be mentioned among them."
Marshall is the 46th field player in league history to surpass 20,000 minutes. In starting all but three of 228 career games, he has 15 goals and 10 assists with nine cautions and only one red card.
"He's well respected by the organization and the players," coach Robert Warzycha said. "Even if he had some games that weren't up to his standard he's still one of the best defenders. He's always a first choice."