It appears that a large group of New York Red Bulls fans may get their wish regarding the team's starting lineup when New York host Toronto FC this coming Saturday.
Franco Panizo of MLSSoccer.com confirmed on Tuesday that Red Bulls defender-midfielder Rafa Marquez is slated to miss "at least the next two weeks" due to a hamstring problem that the designated player picked up early on during the team's match at New England Revolution this past Saturday. The knock was not related to any contact made with Marquez's leg, and the Mexican international attempted to fight through the pain and remain on the pitch. He was ultimately subbed off for Joel Lindpere ten minutes before halftime.
The hamstring injury will, barring a speedy recovery, keep Marquez sidelined for at least two of New York's final four regular season matches. Following this Saturday's home game against Toronto, RBNY will host Chicago Fire on October 6. The international break could allow Marquez to get fully healed in time for New York's October 20 clash with Sporting KC at Red Bull Arena.
Tuesday's news is hardly shocking to any diehard fan of the Red Bulls, a team that's still chasing a first MLS Cup in franchise history. Marquez, who has a MLS salary of $4.6 million, has been absent throughout 2012 because of a combination of suspensions and injuries. He has now made just 12 appearances, 11 starts, for New York this season. Three of those starts all came within the past ten days after Marquez returned to action following a nagging calf injury, a problem that kept him sidelined for all but 25 minutes of play during a two-month period of time.
The hope among each RBNY supporter I spoke with on Tuesday is that Marquez's return to the sidelines will force head coach Hans Backe to go back to a starting eleven that saw much success during the spring and summer months when Marquez was routinely absent. Dax McCarty should be able to make a return to CDM, a role in which he excelled throughout a run of games that landed him as a favorite for the team's 2012 MVP award. McCarty looked uncomfortable playing out on the wing in the team's past few contests, but he played much better this past Saturday evening once Lindpere replaced Marquez, a substitution that allowed McCarty to play in his more natural role.
Speculating too much about future matches seems foolish, if only because RBNY supporters have seen this movie many times before, and we all know how it ends. Regardless of how New York play over their next two matches, Marquez will get the start, likely at CDM, if he is fit and able to go when the Red Bulls host Kansas City on October 20. From there, fans will only be able to sit back and wait for the inevitable injury/suspension; one that, this time, happens either right before or during the 2012 MLS Playoffs.
I certainly hope that isn't the case. Regardless of people's opinion on the player, you can't ignore how good a team New York really are when Marquez is on the pitch and both healthy and motivated. It's an occurrence that just hasn't happened enough, though, and nobody could blame any fan for being both frustrated and angry about the entire situation at this point of the Marquez-at-RBNY experiment.