He's lost a step. No longer an elite player. On the back end of his career. Chad Marshall, 28, has heard the whispers. But after injuries limited him to 24 games last season and hampered his effectiveness even when he was available, the Crew captain is aiming to regain the form that made him the MLS Defender of the Year in 2008 and '09.
He’s lost a step. No longer an elite player. On the back end of his career.
Chad Marshall, 28, has heard the whispers. But after injuries limited him to 24 games last season and hampered his effectiveness even when he was available, the Crew captain is aiming to regain the form that made him the MLS Defender of the Year in 2008 and ’09.
“I feel like in the eyes of most people around the league, they feel like I’ve dropped off, and I feel like I still have good years left in this league playing at a high level,” he said. “I want to silence my critics, if you want to put it that way, and come in and have a great year because last year was frustrating.”
When the Crew reported for preseason training last year, Marshall was limited as he recovered from offseason ankle surgery. After starting and going the distance in the first seven games of the season, Marshall suffered a concussion in practice and missed the next eight games. Upon his return, Marshall jumped back into the starting lineup despite now acknowledging that he might not have been fully fit.
But as the season wore on, Marshall’s mended ankle worsened. It reached a breaking point about a half-hour before a critical road game against D.C. United in the penultimate weekend of the season, when Marshall had to pull himself from the starting lineup. The Crew went on to lose 3-2 and was eliminated from postseason consideration.
“I was walking around with him before the game when we got there and went out to check the field, and he seemed to be in a lot of pain,” defender Josh Williams said. “I didn’t even know he wasn’t going to play until the starting lineups came out and I realized Chad wasn’t in there. I looked over, and you could tell by his facial expression that he was pretty upset. That being the biggest game of the year … I’m sure that killed him.”
Less than a week after the season ended, Marshall underwent another surgery. This time, the procedure shaved a bone that was pinching a nerve and causing pain.
It also required less time to heal than the previous year’s procedure.
“It was a larger incision but a quicker recovery time this time,” he said. “My range of motion right after was so much better than it was before.”
The procedure allowed Marshall to be fully active when the Crew kicked off full-squad preseason training last Monday. Thanks to the offseason workout plan devised by Crew strength and conditioning coach Brook Hamilton, Marshall looks noticeably trimmer than he did a year ago.
“I think it was a frustrating year for him last year,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “I think that, yeah, in the back of his head he probably does want to get out and not necessarily prove people wrong because he’s proven for many a year what he can do. With injuries, it wasn’t an ideal year for him. If he can stay healthy and have that mentality, he can be the best again.
“No doubt: When he’s on, he’s the best defender in the league.”
And with that comes a better chance for the Crew to return the playoffs after missing out last season.
“I’m sure he can play better (than last season),” coach Robert Warzycha said. “If he can have a performance where he’s one of the three best defenders in the league, that means we’re going to be in the playoffs.”
Last season, Chad Marshall became the Crew’s all-time leader in games and minutes played. His year-by-year totals:YEAR GMS MIN 2004 28 2,446 2005 30 2,655 2006 26 2,255 2007 12 1,020 2008 29 2,485 2009 18 1,580 2010 24 2,160 2011 32 2,835 2012 24 2,146 Totals 223 19,582