DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Just ahead of the 2010 MLS All-Star game, USA defender Chad Marshall is happy to be once again healthy and contributing to his club's MLS campaign, and is eager to work his way back into the fold with the national team.

Despite struggling a hamstring injury in the early stages of the MLS season, the two-time MLS defender of the year has enjoyed a good run with his club team Columbus Crew as of late. The team heads into the short All-Star break on the heels of a two-game winning streak holding an eight-point lead on the Eastern Conference, and is looking to be one of the main favorites to take the league title just past the midway point.

Marshall had been included in Bob Bradley's original 30-man roster at the head of World Cup preparations, but was amongst the seven players cut prior to the trip to South Africa.

While certainly disappointed to miss the opportunity to represent his country on the world's biggest stage, the omission came as no surprise to the former Stanford Cardinal as he had not yet fully had the chance to recover from his previous injury issues.

"[It was] disappointing to not make the team but I wasn't fit at the time," Marshall admitted. "I was just coming off a hamstring thing where I was out seven weeks."

Having had a short break from club play during the group stage of the tournament, Marshall feels as though he is finally back to full speed, as is clearly indicated by his - and his club's - strong play since the resumption of the season.

"It was just a matter of getting back and fit and helping the Crew out in any way I could," he explains, adding "and we've been on a good roll so it's going good."

Having participated in the first two weeks of preparations with the players who ultimately took took the field for the US in South Africa gave Marshall an added connection as he watched the team fight through several dramatic results on their way to the round of 16.

"It was cool to know that you had some part of it and know what the guys had put into the camp before with all the preparation, so it was fun to see them advance," he said of his experience in watching the team take the top spot in Group C.

Even with the heartbreaking loss to Ghana in their first knockout game, he feels the strong connection of the squad to MLS, where all but six players on the 23-man roster are current or former participants, spoke well about the league's quality in developing talent.

"I know they were probably disappointed with how it went against Ghana but they showed well, and they represented MLS and their clubs well."

As the the national team one again enters another four-year cycle leading up to the 2014 tournament in Brazil, the 25 year-old will be viewed as a front-runner to stake a claim in the center of defense. With the next big chance to earn a spot coming next summer in the 2011 Gold Cup, Marshall is clear on what he needs to do to in order to have a chance to push his way into a central role for the tournament, at which he was considered one of premier defenders in 2009.

"I need to keep doing what I've been doing, stay healthy and fit, and get results with the Crew," he asserts, concluding "Teams who are playing well will likely have clubs represented."

In the more immediate future, however, the MLS All-Star is thrilled for the chance to represent the league against one of Europe's elite teams in Manchester United.

While still missing its World Cup stars on their pre-season tour, the 18-time English champions are in no way devoid of world-class players for Wednesday's match, providing Marshall much-anticipated chance to test his skills against several of the world's best.

"I'm looking forward to going up against all of them," he beams. "[I'm] not sure who from their team will be playing but they are a great club and great players and it's a great chance test yourself against them."

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