COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Now entering his 10th season with the Columbus Crew, Chad Marshall is faced with the task of once again answering the critics who feel he has dropped from the upper echelon of center backs in the league.
Marshall, 28, had a disappointing conclusion of the 2012 season as the defense struggled to keep teams to under two goals per game down the stretch. Worse, the captain missed the final two games with a painful right ankle injury, including a loss at D.C. in the penultimate match that eliminated the Crew from playoff contention.
It was a far cry from Marshall’s more illustrious days, when he was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year and a vital part of the Crew’s MLS Cup 2008 run.
"He won't use that as an excuse but you could tell something was wrong," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com. "He didn't have the swag, the confidence he had in years past when he was Defender of the Year."
Marshall underwent surgery in the offseason to repair the damage to the ankle.
"I had a large bone in the back that was impinging on the muscle around there," he said in a phone interview with MLSsoccer.com last week. "It was one of those things that bothered me the whole second half of the year and got progressively worse."
For the second straight offseason he underwent surgery on his ankle. In November 2011 Marshall had bone spurs removed from the front. The operation this time was unrelated to that.
"Right after the procedure my range of motion was so much more than it was last season," he said. "That should solve the problem."
The good news is Marshall said he will be ready when camp opens Friday in Columbus. He may not do much training because of the wear and tear of the Crew’s indoor surface, but he expects to participate fully when the teams heads to Bradenton, Fla., on Jan. 24.
"I just didn't feel as confident as I usually do planting on it and changing directions," he said of last season. "It definitely affected me the longer the season went on. If I had tried to play that D.C. game (a 3-2 loss on Oct. 20 that eliminated Columbus from playoff contention), I told the coaches I was probably at 50 percent."
Marshall, who also missed eight games last season with another in a series of concussions throughout his career, is the Crew's all-time leader in games (223), starts (220) and minutes (19,582) but knows the team expects better from him in 2013.
"I've had numerous people tell me he is absolutely committed and working his tail off in this offseason," Crew president Mark McCullers told MLSsoccer.com. "The reports I've gotten from the people around him indicate he thinks he has something to prove as well."