By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
More members of Columbus’ 2008 MLS Cup championship team are with the Seattle Sounders these days than with the current Crew.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid coached Columbus to that Major League Soccer trophy. Sounders assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson played for the Crew back then. So did current Sounders midfielder Brad Evans and central defender Chad Marshall.
Columbus, meanwhile, has no remaining players from its championship season. The last of the bunch was Marshall, who was traded to Seattle in December after a franchise-record 22,220 minutes with the Crew.
“I was the last one of that era after they got rid of Andy Gruenebaum and Danny O’Rourke,” Marshall said this week. “So I thought that was as good a time as any, with them having a new owner, a new coach. They’re obviously starting over, so I felt it was as good a time as any for me to get going somewhere else.”
Schmid says the change of scenery has had a rejuvenating affect on Marshall.
“I think whenever you’ve been at a place for a long time, maybe a change of scenery is good for you,” he said. “… I think his quality is comparable to center backs who are in the national team pool right now (and) as good as any center back in this league.”
Today, Marshall faces his former team for the first time when the Crew visits CenturyLink Field.
“It’s a little different,” he said. “I just kind of look at it as another home game: Gotta get three points. But it will be nice to see those guys after the game. … I spent 10 years there, so I’m always going to be a fan of theirs – just not so much this week.”
Columbus is off to the first 2-0 start in club history under new coach Gregg Berhalter.
The Crew has gotten two goals each from Federico Higuain and reigning MLS player of the week Bernardo Anor. On the other end of the pitch, Columbus is led by U.S. national team defender Michael Parkhurst and goalkeeper Steve Clark, who was acquired in an off-season trade with Seattle.
Meanwhile, the Sounders are 2-1 and have allowed two goals over their first three games.
Much of the credit has been directed at Marshall, who teammates say seems back near his levels of 2008 and 2009 when he won back-to-back MLS defender of the year awards.
“His physical presence is one that is probably unmatched anywhere in the league — maybe two or three other players,” Evans said. “… He covers some ground for a center back, and he always puts himself in good positions, and that comes with experience. First and foremost, he’s here for the team. This is a move he wanted to make and one (he thought of as) kind of jumpstart. In my mind: the best defender in the league.”
Evans began his professional career with Columbus in 2007 and came to Seattle in the expansion draft after the 2008 season. That passage of time has lessened – but not fully erased – the meaning of facing his former team again.
“It’s obviously my first club, and something that I’ll always remember: winning the championship,” Evans said. “(I have) fond memories of being there, but the team is much different now.”