June 24, 2012
MARQUEZ ON THE MARK
Backe hails Rafa's 'best performance'
By Michael Lewis
|Ryan Meara on Rafa Marquez (above): "He really didn't miss a beat."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- For a good part of the past two seasons, Rafa Marquez has been used as a personal pinata by the Red Bulls fans and media for his lackluster play, and rightfully so.
With Markus Holgersson and Wilman Conde ailing, the Mexican National Team captain slotted into the central defender role for the first time since last year's MLS playoffs on Sunday night. He played up to his star billing in the Red Bulls' 3-2 win over D.C. United.
"I would probably say that this is Rafa's best performance since he arrived," Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said.
It would be quite difficult to argue with Backe's assessment.
Marquez teammed with Heath Pearce, named captain of the match with Thierry Henry starting on the bench. He helped run the team's attack from the backline.
"He really didn't miss a beat," goalkeeper Ryan Meara said. "When he's in the back, when he's on the field, he can keep the ball so well. He's so good with the ball on his feet. It's a real calming infludence for us going forward and moving the ball around. I thought he was great.
"Everything flowed through him and he was very solid defensively. That's all you can ask from him. I thought he did a great job."
Marquez' problems have been well documented. He got into trouble for his critical comments of former central defender partner Tim Ream. He was slapped with a three-game suspension for throwing the ball at the LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan that started a fracas after a playoff loss before he was anned for another three games for breaking the collarbone the San Jose Earthquakes' Shea Salinas earlier this season.
There was no need for those antics before a packed house at Red Bull Arena on Sunday night, just pure soccer.
Marquez was forced from the game with a tight calf muscle as he was replaced by Stephen Keel in the 87th minute.
"It was a little bit of tension in the lower calf, a little bit," he said. "It was not the same one that I had with the Mexican National Team."