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The terrible toxin around Red Bull Arena: Rafa Marquez

Nov 9, 2012, 8:15 AM EDT

New York Red Bulls v DC United - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

All credit to D.C. United for Thursday’s accomplishment. Ben Olsen’s team was tactically disciplined, collectively committed and ultimately dug out the decisive goal – surely the club’s most significant goal in at least five years.

But there is a less lovely story from the other side last night in Harrison, N.J., where the New York Red Bulls collapsed beneath the weight of their own destructive choices. They paid a handsome price, yet again, for the utterly unjustifiable choices around Rafa Marquez.

I’ve said before, but it was never more true: At this point, anything Marquez does to damage and tear down the team is no longer his fault. It’s the club’s fault for its stubborn desire to keep the former Mexican international around.

Marquez is an anchor strapped to the ankle of this franchise and last night he sank the whole thing. (Believe it – no matter how many ways his former Barcelona teammate Thierry Henry tries to defend the guy.)

The Red Bulls were in good shape last night. Hans Backe’s side was more or less in control of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal second leg. Sloppy or imprecise finishing aside, they were in charge of a 0-0 match.

United went a man down with 20 minutes remaining. Surely, you would think, with a man advantage while playing at home, Backe’s pricey assembly of stars could come shining through. To have that man advantage, even if the night needed another 30 minutes to declare a winner, meant everything.

Then Marquez did what he’s been doing since his arrival into Harrison: he thoughtlessly and selfishly brought it all down.

Marquez probably should have been ejected for his awful elbow into Chris Pontius’ head in the 61st minute. Granted reprieve, and fully aware that referee Mark Geiger would presumably not hesitate to even up the match, Marquez then brutally chopped down Pontius just six minutes after Bill Hamid’s ejection for D.C. United.

Series over. And probably Backe’s time at Red Bull Arena, too.

(MORE: Highlights and analysis from last night’s contest)

By all appearances, Marquez is always in it for himself. There was always an injury (some of the mysterious variety), or a costly moment of inattention or rank indifference on game day. There were nasty shots at teammates. There were moments of utter madness, like his post-game antics that led to suspension in last year’s playoffs.

And there was no value in a $4.6 million salary, that for a man who started just 32 of 68 games over the last two years. (Some of his absences were due to international call-ups or because Backe just chose not to use him, which is indicting on its own.)

Either way, he wasn’t available enough. And when he was, all the smooth passing in the world could not possibly balance his toxic tendencies.

No matter how many Red Bulls-branded shirts this guy sells in Mexico, the organization simply must cut its losses. If not, the Red Bulls will continue to deserve every damaging and deadly deed this disaster of a signing reaps.

  1. dfstell - Nov 9, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    I also don’t get paying that kind of money to a guy who is loathed by US soccer fans from all his time with the Mexican national team. I mean, there are plenty of excellent Mexican players who are not hated….sign one of them. Why pick the guy who has been one of the biggest and dirtiest punks for our biggest rival?

    I enjoy watching Red Bulls fail because I don’t like Marquez.

  2. pck332 - Nov 9, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    Marquez is an anchor strapped to the ankle of this franchise and last night he sank the whole thing.

    I think you mean he is an anchor stepping on the ankles of this franchise and last night he tackled the whole thing.

  3. mdac1012 - Nov 9, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Rafa should be arrested for grand larceny for accepting the money on his contract. I am not shocked that they lost, because they have been underwhelming all season for the talent they have, I am speechless that Henry didn’t take that free kick at the end of the game. Just another reason Hans won’t be back next year.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 9, 2012 at 9:50 AM

      I agree … but only to a point. Is it larceny to keep taking money when the club leaves it on the front porch, knowing you’ll walk by every day and take it?

      And about that free kick … stick around. We’re going to talk about that one, too. More blisterings are ahead, I promise.

  4. wesbadia - Nov 9, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    The question has to be asked: if Marquez was playing a d-mid role, would’ve NYRB conceded the goal?

    I ask this because I think the stress NY’s formation had to endure after Marquez’s dismissal was the reason they lost the game. This is a great case study because DC went down a man at almost exactly the same time (a tad before actually). What I mean by all this is that when you compare the two dismissals from both teams and the subsequent replacements at those positions, you’re left to ponder the new formations and personnel for those teams.

    In the case of DC, Boscovic was brought off in order for Willis to go in goal. This caused a slight gap between the midfield core and the strikers, but this could easily be remedied by sliding Pontius back slightly to fill in that void a bit, which would lessen the impact. Meanwhile, DC’s backline and d-mid were all still solid with all starters in. Plus, Willis is no slouch in net.

    Look at what Backe did when Marquez was removed, though. A huge cog was removed from central defense, and the only thing Backe could do is move a midfielder back to fill the hole. It’d be silly to play with three backs at that point in the game, so he makes an obvious sacrifice by moving Tainio to center back.

    If you zoom out and look at both adjusted formations, you’ll notice a HUGE problem for NY. DC’s line barely changes, especially in the back. The gap, as I said, is filled by Pontius. Whereas NY’s has to be shifted backwards, which both hinders their attack AND disrupts the defense as there is a non-defender now involved in the mix.

    In short, DC’s adjusted lineup and formation is better suited to the game situation than NY’s is because it’s largely unchanged and is much more stable than NY’s is. Add to this the fact that Tainio was involved in Robbie Russell’s run and subsequent pass to DeLeon for the DC goal, and I think you see what I mean.

    The other thing that I think doomed the Red Bulls is the sub Backe made at the end of the game. Bringing Digao on was a no-brainer. Attackers were needed. But Roy Miller? You want to bring on a sub par wing back at the end of a knock out game in which you are losing to make that final push? Where was Lloyd Sam? Did they have no other offensive players? This was proven right when Miller took the 93rd minute free kick and proceeded to give the Empire Supporter’s club a souvenir. This goes to show how inept Backe is at managing, and I think it adds merit to the rumors that he’ll be sent back to Europe for 2013.

    • genebrooklyn - Nov 9, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      I basically agree with your assessment, but had a quibble. Lloyd Sam was out for the season, and the only offensive option Backe had on the bench was Sebastian Le Toux, who despite his relative ineffectiveness of late is still always a better bet than Miller.

      • wesbadia - Nov 9, 2012 at 1:37 PM

        Was unaware of Sam as I don’t normally keep up with NY’s roster changes in a detailed manner, so thanks for that.

        And yes, Le Toux would’ve made a lot more sense than Miller.

  5. tundey - Nov 9, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Once Marquez got that first yellow, I said to myself: he’s gonna get another. Hans Backe should have replaced him at half time.

    I agree with Steve Davis, this is all on Red Bulls management. I can’t fault a man to taking the money but it’s up to the coach and front office to cut their losses. Look at DC United, until very recently we had 2 DPs that couldn’t crack the starting line up. It’s a testament to the front office’s support of Olsen that he’s been allowed to field the best 11 players as he sees fit, regardless of salaries.

  6. manutebol - Nov 9, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Hey ho Rafa Marquez has got to go

  7. kgg6 - Nov 9, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    I never blamed Rafa for anything. I blame that sh1t organization that’s called Red Bull for having all the wrong pieces to run its NY club. This organization brought nothing but crap to MLS and NY fans. Terrible owners so far. Terrible.

  8. soccerjohn - Nov 9, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I’ll miss Marquez when he’s gone. For me, as a fan of the USMNT and DCU, that guy is one of the most loathable figures in soccer. But he hurts his team on the field, in the locker room, and financially. Seriously, I can’t think of another way NYRB could hurt themselves quite so spectacularly without making people wonder whether they were trying to lose games. An old, inept version of Mario Balotelli? That’d just make it harder for them to score goals, not directly influence how many they let in. Aside from the risk of injury when playing the guy, there’s no downside to NYRB keeping Marquez around (for opposing teams).

  9. mdac1012 - Nov 9, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I am not blaming Rafa for taking the money, but to say he has not lived up to his contract would be an understatement.

  10. matt8204 - Nov 9, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    In a way, the Red Bulls are fortunate that soccer isn’t more popular in the States. Can you imagine the field day that sports talk radio in NYC would be having with them if soccer was a big-time sport? These guys just can’t get it done in the playoffs.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 9, 2012 at 9:26 PM

      This! Well said

  11. mmancini99 - Nov 9, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Any other league in the world, and this guy is gone a year + ago for this performance. It’s mind boggling how he is still around. Particularly with quality players beating down the door to play in NYC. This club is toast once the Cosmos come to MLS.

  12. footballer4ever - Nov 10, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    The league originally relied in hiring players based on the nationality to attract fans. As “good” as Marquez was in Barcelona, this is a footballer who may have skills, but character-wise is not a benefitial player to have.

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