I'm tired of hearing New York Red Bulls defender/midfielder Rafa Marquez say the "right things" when speaking with reporters. I don't ever again want to hear about how Marquez is aggravated that he hasn't been able to play throughout the summer. I just want to see him out on the pitch, playing mistake-free soccer and helping the Red Bulls win games.
I'm far from being the only New York supporter who feels this way.
Diehard fans of the team are well aware of Marquez's 2012 stats: Nine total appearances, eight starts, two assists, just 25 minutes of play since July 15, and a salary of $4.6 million. Any and all "has Marquez actually earned his paychecks?" discussions are, as of the typing of this sentence, nothing short of ridiculous. As I and multiple RBNY/MLS analysts have pointed out since late spring, Marquez isn't going anywhere until at least the upcoming winter.
It's now on the international star to play his best soccer of the season when it matters most.
"I expect to play 60 to 70 minutes at a good level because we have three games in a week and that [approach] will help me be 100 percent for all three of them," Marquez stated while speaking with reporters on Thursday. He also (again) said that his being unable to play for club and country over the past couple of months because of a calf injury has been "frustrating." What's done is done, and neither Marquez nor the Red Bulls can get that missed time back. New York play Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City in the next week, two matches that could mean the difference between Red Bulls merely earning a playoff spot and New York remaining Supporters' Shield contenders.
Marquez is, if he's fully fit and able to go, going to get playing time in New York's three September matches. Red Bulls fans learned on Thursday that left back Roy Miller, who has recently lost his starting gig to Wilman Conde, is slated to miss two weeks because of a groin injury that he picked up while on international duty. It's safe to assume that Conde will need a break somewhere down the line, which could land Heath Pearce at left back and Marquez in the middle of the back line. Marquez could also share time in the midfield with either Teemu Tainio or Dax McCarty, although I don't think any fan would tell you that Marquez should be taking playing time from McCarty at this point.
The Red Bulls appear to be true title contenders, and they have earned several noteworthy victories this season without Marquez in the team. New York captain Thierry Henry and head coach Hans Backe have both repeatedly spoken highly of Marquez throughout the campaign, but I'm not at all convinced that the designated player has a spot in the team's starting eleven when the squad is full. It's up to Marquez to change minds and opinions, and the only way he is going to do that is by performing as should the second highest-paid player in all of Major League Soccer while wearing a Red Bulls shirt.
There's one stat I intentionally left out earlier in this piece. It's the one that points out that the 2012 Red Bulls haven't lost once when Marquez has been in the team's starting lineup. If that trend continues through fall and it includes Marquez being on the field and not sitting in a chair on the sideline or in luxury box, he could prove to be a pivotal player who helps the Red Bulls end their trophy drought.
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