Chad Marshall - Seattle Sounders - Slapping teammates five
USA Today Sports

Seattle Sounders celebrate Chad Marshall as team's pressure valve

TUKWILA, Wash. – With the retirement of legendary defender Chad Marshall, what the Seattle Sounders are losing on the field is obvious.

But when it comes to replacing him, there’s more to it than filling the void left by the only player to win the MLS Defender of the Year award three times. The Sounders are losing one of their veteran leaders and one of the club’s biggest personalities. Among his teammates, Marshall’s joking nature and locker room antics are almost as legendary as his on-field dominance.

Midfielder Cristian Roldan recalled one example of a quintessential Marshall story at Seattle’s training session at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday, recounting how the 6-foot-4 center back would raid the locker of slighter-framed goalkeeper Stefan Frei and wrangle his way into his tight-fitting clothes before strutting around and acting like they were his own.

“It made the team just laugh out of him just being himself,” Roldan said. “He would do this a lot, very frequently, and it brought the team closer together because we all just laughed at his humor.”

Frei, who claims to have countered those antics by wearing progressively tighter clothes until Marshall couldn’t physically fit into them anymore, said presences like that in the high-pressure, do-or-die world of professional sports are crucial, particularly when times get tough.

“Those are things that are necessary,” Frei said. “Those are funny, goofy things that are needed in the locker room, where we’re always under pressure, especially when you’re finding yourself in a dark place.

“Those are important moments to keep spirits high and laugh for a second and then be able to roll up your sleeves again and go to work. He always had a knack for knowing when it was time to do something like that.”

An on-field contingency plan is already on the way in the form of newly-signed Ecuadorian center back Xavier Arreaga, who Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said could arrive in Seattle as soon as Thursday.

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Emotions were raw at Wednesday’s practice at Starfire, with a couple of those interviewed choking back tears while discussing Marshall’s legacy with the franchise and the hole his departure leaves.

“He took the edge off on many occasions,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “When everyone’s all angsty and angry, he would just do something, he would say something and we’d be going, ‘Ok, it’s not that serious. Let’s just be happy we’ve got a good job and we’re around a bunch of good teammates.’

“That was one of his lasting things. He made us all realize that, yes, this is an intense sport and there’s pressure. But he was able to relieve some of that at certain moments.”