Seattle Sounders FC center back Chad Marshall was honored Tuesday as Major League Soccer’s defender of the year.
That’s a prestigious award, but someone wins it every year.
However, Marshall’s section marks the third time he has been voted the league’s best defender — and no one had ever done that.
“There’s a lot of great names on that list of players who have won this award, so to be the first to get to three, it means a lot,” Marshall said. “It’s been an incredible year and one that all other years will be compared to for sure.”
Marshall, 30, previously won the award in 2008 and 2009 when he played for the Columbus Crew.
“I like to think I didn’t venture too far from that level,” he said earlier this season.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid has said the change of scenery might have helped rejuvenate Marshall a bit. He added Tuesday that the Sounders’ success on the field probably helped, too.
“When the team does well they always recognize individuals a little bit more,” Schmid said. “… When you look at the past award winners, they’re usually connected to a team that’s done fairly well that season as well.
Marshall came to Seattle on Dec. 12 in exchange for allocation money and a third-round draft choice.
He immediately moved into a starting role at central defense and led the league with 136 interceptions. He recorded one goal — the game-winner at Philadelphia — and matched his career high with three assists.
“Chad’s been tremendous,” Seattle defender Zach Scott said. “By far one of our most consistent guys all year. You’ve seen when we haven’t had him out on the field we’re not quite as good defensively. At this point of the season, when you’re looking for people to be playing at their absolute best, Chad’s killing it.”
Marshall missed three regular-season matches, and the Sounders surrendered six goals in his absence, including a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Sounders’ opponent Sunday in the Western Conference final.
His award was voted on by players, clubs and media. Runner-up Bobby Boswell of D.C. United topped the vote of clubs (23.17 percent) and media (36.1 percent), but Marshall won on the strength of support from his fellow players (28.42 percent). Omar Gonzalez of Los Angeles and Michael Parkhurst of Columbus finished third and fourth.
“That means a lot,” Marshall said. “Obviously, you play 11 years in this league and you have a lot of friends. It’s always nice to be voted by your peers, and like I said, I’m extremely grateful for this award.”
Three other Sounders remain up for other MLS honors: forward Obafemi Martins for most valuable player, goalkeeper Stefan Frei for comeback player, and Schmid for coach of the year. Those winners will be announced Dec. 2.