The whirlwind of Sounders FC’s offseason continued in full force Thursday, as the team acquired one of the best defenders in MLS over the past decade but also lost one of its “originals” from the inaugural 2009 season.
The Sounders gave up allocation money and a third-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft in exchange for Columbus Crew veteran Chad Marshall, the MLS Defender of the Year in 2008 and 2009. That acquisition was tempered later in the day, however, by the loss of midfielder Steve Zakuani to the Portland Timbers through the MLS Re-Entry Draft.
Marshall, 29, has played for the Crew in all of his 10 seasons in the league. Three of those years in Columbus were under current Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, capped by an MLS Cup championship in 2008 before Schmid left for Seattle.
The 6-foot-4 Marshall has played 11 games for the U.S. men’s national team, his last appearance coming in 2010. He made $361,250 last season and called the trade “bittersweet” in an interview on the Crew’s website.
“I do have to leave a great club here, but I am excited about the opportunity of going to Seattle and helping that team in any way that I can,” he told TheCrew.com.
The Sounders had a clear need in central defense, and Schmid addressed as much in Monday’s end-of-the-season business meeting. In fact, Schmid almost seemed to be reading the resume of Marshall when describing the type of player the team was pursuing.
“We have to have center backs who individually can defend (one-on-one) and can also start our attack intelligently and can also dominate the opponent they’re playing against,” Schmid said Monday.
Zakuani, 25, was a Seattle mainstay since being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2009 SuperDraft, though he suffered a devastating broken leg in 2011 that limited his time on the field the last 2?seasons.
His departure ultimately wasn’t a surprise, as it had been revealed he wouldn’t receive a contract extension upon the expiration of his previous deal. That made him eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft, which began Thursday, where he was selected by rival Portland — a demoralizing blow for many Sounders fans.
Zakuani had played under Timbers coach Caleb Porter in college, leading a dominant Akron program. Portland star Darlington Nagbe, who also played at Akron, is one of Zakuani’s closest friends.
Seattle’s Marc Burch was also selected in the Re-Entry Draft, going to the Colorado Rapids. Midfielder Blair Gavin went unselected and will be eligible in Wednesday’s second stage.