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Life after Marshall? How the Crew replace the defensive anchor

Where does the Columbus Crew's defense stand after trading their defensive anchor?

Jamie Sabau

Since 2004 there was one thing certain about the Columbus Crew, if healthy Chad Marshall would anchor the Black and Gold's defensive line. Throughout his career, the players around him have changed, but Marshall has been a mainstay.

Today that changed as the Crew announced they had traded their longest-tenured player to the Seattle Sounders for allocation money and future draft pick.

The question on everyone's mind becomes, what does that mean for Columbus' back line?

Some answers were provided by new head coach Gregg Berhalter, who stated that the Crew would continue to play with four across the back and would be looking for a replacement for Marshall.

Both of these updates are positive because the team does not have the personnel to play just three in the back, nor does it appear there is a suitable substitute for Marshall on the current roster.

If the team had a game today, the center backs would likely be a combination of Josh Williams, Tyson Wahl, and Eric Gehrig, assuming Berhalter wants to go with experience.

Matt Wiet could play in the middle, but this is his first season in MLS. He played last year with the Dayton Dutch Lions, starting four games while dealing with injuries. Previously, Wiet played his freshman year at Indiana - named to the 2009 Big Ten All-Freshman Team - before transferring to UCLA and earning All-Region honors in each of his three years.

None of these players demand a starting role and all have had issues of some sort in the past.

Aside from those four, the Crew have Agustin Viana, new signing Waylon Francis, and second-year pro Chad Barson defensively. All of these players are more suitable on the outside of the defensive line.

In 2013, the Crew were consistently looking for a partner for Marshall, now they have two holes to fill.

There is still the possibility that Gláuber - the player expected to play alongside Marshall last year before tearing his ACL in June - could return to the club, but that would require the two sides to come to a contractual agreement.

The jury is still out on Gláuber however, as he only made 13 appearances for Columbus last year and was still adjusting to life in the MLS before his injury.

If you take Berhalter at his word that they intend on signing a replacement for Marshall - Gláuber or otherwise - then there would likely be an opening day lineup of Francis-Gláuber-Williams-Barson.

This presents more questions than it answers.

How will Francis perform in his first MLS season? Will Gláuber be healthy and can he be an MLS center back? How will Williams respond to being the leader of the back line? Can Barson put together another year like the last?

Some of these questions were inevitable, but losing Marshall just adds to the pot.

The offseason is in its early stages, but Marshall leaves big shoes to be filled and it will be up to Berhalter and his staff to do so.

The only thing that is for sure is that when the Crew open 2014 on March 8, the defense will have a new look to it. What remains to be seen is how it will look.