Posted on September 16, 2012
By Kristian R. Dyer
TropiGol.com Contributing Editor
HARRISON, N.J. – For one night at least, Rafa Marquez was no longer the villain of the Red Bulls. In fact, he was a bit of a hero.
Making his first appearance since Aug. 10 when he played just four minutes and his first start in exactly two months, Marquez’s long pass over the top of the Columbus defense in the ninth minute set up Thierry Henry for the equalizing goal in a 1-1 draw. Ironically for Marquez, Saturday night was his best performance since June 24, which was the last time Marquez started and made it until at least halftime.
“He is precise when you give him time and space – he can be very precise,” coach Hans Backe said. “Turn or if it’s crosses, final passes or whatever but also calm down also your buildup, your attacking game so you don’t get too hectic.”
Starting in the central midfield, the Mexican international had a combination of the sublime – such as the assist on the Red Bulls lone goal of the game – but he also did plenty of hard dirty work in the match. There was plenty of tracking back, hard tackling and build-up of possession from Marquez.
And, yes, no yellow cards.
Perhaps the only blunder came in the 57th minute when Marquez stole the ball at midfield and, inexplicably, shot at goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum trying to catch the keeper off his line. The problem was that Gruenebaum wasn’t off his line and the shot was weak and was easily gathered in the air by the Crew goalkeeper. But all things considered, it was a solid night from the midfielder.
“Despite having been out so long I feel very comfortable,” Marquez said. “Fitness wise, I’m getting much, much better and I have the hunger now to continue this streak.”
When asked by BigAppleSoccer.com what the “hunger” was, Marquez explained.
“It’s simply because of the fact of how and why I’ve been missing the games due to injury and knowing how much I’ve missed and how much I need to give to this team,” Marquez said.
That pass, over the top of the Columbus defense, was a thing of beauty that left his teammates speechless. But Marquez’s impact on the game was more than his mercurial touch in the ninth minute; it was seen in the little things that he did on and off the ball.
“Really good game, that pass to Thierry was fantastic. He is calm with the ball. He takes it down and you can find your position and he holds it and finds the right spot,” center back Markus Holgersson said. “Also with him, I can drive out and get space because he’s in the right position. It’s important for me because he can hold the ball and let me get into position.”
And Marquez apologist Henry, who praised Marquez after that performance against United, saw the value of the designated player on display again in the win over the Crew.
“When Rafa plays, I have another option. I can go behind the defense,” he said. “And you saw it tonight. How many times did you see me dropping tonight? None. How many times did you see me go behind the defense? Every single time. It’s another dimension when Rafa plays. He has that game. Therefore for me, it is a bit better.”
Photo: Rafa Marquez enjoyed a solid game for the Red Bulls. Andy Mead/YCJ
Categories: Mexico, North America
Tags: Columbus Crew, Hans Backe, New York Red Bulls, Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry