TUKWILA, Wash. — As Seattle Sounders defender Chad Marshall wrapped up his session with the media following Tuesday’s practice, he couldn’t help but smile.
“I love you guys,” Marshall told reporters before heading to the locker room.
The 29-year-old veteran has every reason to feel cheerful these days. He’s once again an MLS All-Star and is squarely in the running for his third MLS Defender of the Year award — a feat that would set a league record.
In a season that has seen the Sounders jump out to healthy leads in both the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield race, Marshall’s defensive prowess and overall consistency have contributed heavily to Seattle’s success.
His uncanny ability to win headers and place them with pinpoint accuracy has proved to be an asset, both defensively and as a threat for opponents to worry about when he comes forward for corner kicks and set pieces.
“If feels great, it’s been a while since I’ve got to play in one,” Marshall said of his selection. “Obviously it’s all a credit to how well we’re doing as a team. When you’re on top of the table you’re going to get guys in the All-Star Game.”
It’s the first All-Star nod in three seasons for Marshall after spending the last 10 years with the Columbus Crew, where he was a key member of the 2008 squad that won the MLS Cup. But the Crew underperformed the last two seasons, missing the playoffs each year.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said the move to Seattle deserves at least some of the credit for the year Marshall has put together in 2014.
“Coming here has revitalized his game, to a certain extent,” Schmid said. “Coming to our team that’s doing well, maybe people are looking at him a little more and they see what an impact he makes on the field. I’ve always believed Chad is a good player, an All-Star-quality player.”
Marshall appreciates this season’s recognition but doesn't believe his approach has changed much, despite his new surroundings.
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“I don’t feel like I’m playing much different than I was [in Columbus],” Marshall said. “I take pride in trying to be a consistent player. I’m happy with the way I’ve been playing this year so it’s nice to get recognized.”
The Sounders led the league in All-Star selections and will also send Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, DeAndre Yedlin and Osvaldo Alonso to Portland, something that Marshall said has helped push his level of play to an even higher level.
“If you’re not bringing it every day then Oba and Clint are going to make you look pretty dumb,” Marshall said. “You’ve got to bring every training and that’s how you get better, playing against guys like that.”