I have just one request for all fellow New York Red Bulls fans about to read this piece: Please hold all of your laughter until the very end. Thank you.
Dave Martinez of Soccer By Ives and Empire of Soccer reported on Thursday that New York defender-turned-midfielder Rafa Marquez suffered a right thigh injury while practicing with the Mexican National Team this past Monday. Marquez was scheduled to play for Team Mexico during their upcoming World Cup qualifiers, but the injury could cause him to miss out on some or even all of the team's June games. Marquez will remain with the Mexican National Team up through the second weekend of June.
Playing without Marquez wouldn't be anything new for the 2012 Red Bulls. He has missed more than half of the team's games this season due to a combination of injuries and suspensions. Marquez was away on international duty when New York defeated Charleston Battery 3-0 in US Open Cup play this past Tuesday.
The truth of the matter is that the Red Bulls have been just fine without having Marquez as an available option throughout much of the past month. While Marquez was responsible for the over the top ball that resulted in the game-winning goal for New York in their 3-2 victory over rivals Philadelphia Union on May 13, he has also been guilty of multiple glaring miscues while on the pitch. He was largely a non-factor in New York's last Major League Soccer match of May, a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA. In fact, the match report posted on the official RBNY didn't even mention Marquez by name.
New York head coach Hans Backe has struggled finding the right place for Marquez in his lineups. Dax McCarty, undoubtedly New York's best CDM heading into June 2012, has been forced to play more of an attacking role when featured with Marquez in the midfield. An injury that causes Marquez to miss out on any MLS contests will allow McCarty to resume the role that has made him, in my opinion, New York's overall MVP of the first three months of the season.
Marquez has, in the eyes of many not-so-silent Red Bulls fans, not redeemed himself in the first three months of the 2012 campaign. New York's inability to win any meaningful trophies since signing Marquez coupled with lackluster home attendance figures would seem to indicate that the international star has not been worth the money. While Red Bulls sporting director/general manager Erik Soler and Backe have both publicly stated that they want to hold onto the much-maligned Marquez, there comes a time when the future of the team must be considered. New York have won six of their last seven games (including USOC play), and they're currently in the top four of the overall MLS standings. The question has to be asked as May 2012 comes to an end:
Do the Red Bulls need Rafa Marquez at this point?