Rafa’s WorldBy: Eric Giacometti | September 23rd, 2011
Well, here I am, once again reeling from another disappointment, trying to figure out just how to sum up yet the latest uninspired performance by New York. I swear, with all the talk of how great this team is better on paper, I propose we so all go out and cover RBA in 8 ½ x 11’s on Saturday… but I digress.
Coming off a nice win, you’d think they’d have some momentum, but you know how the old saying goes, “One step forward, get in the car, pop it into R, put a brick and the gas pedal, and let it fly”… or something like that. This team has uncanny ability to pick you up and throw you down; tricking you into thinking they’ll turn it around (or maybe that’s just me being way too naïve). Playing against an in-form Salt Lake side, it wasn’t a shock to see the Bulls get out played (despite RSL missing their captain, playing at home, and coming off of a win). The season now hangs in the balance, with a tilt against Portland likely to determine New York’s playoff fate. Yet despite the magnitude of the importance of this next game, one player stole the show… and for all the wrong reasons.
When Rafa Marquez first signed with New York in the summer of 2010, he became the teams 3rd DP (behind Henry and JPA). There were high hopes for the Mexican captain and Barcelona star. He offered a calming presence to stabilize the defense and distribution skills to hang with the best in the sport. Upon joining the Red Bulls, he had a respectable year, but much more was expected in his first full year with the squad (and a return to his favored position at CB).
Then came the 2011 season, and the Rafa of old never showed up. The only Rafa fans saw (when we have seen him, playing in only half of RBNY’s matches), was a lethargic, uninspired, and arrogant player. He and Ream never seemed to be on the same page all season. Their poor communication led to many goals conceded, followed by displays of disgust to his teammates. He even wore the captain’s armband a few times, despite showing no signs of being a leader.
Fast forward to Wednesday. Marquez missed New York’s match in Dallas due to yellow card accumulation, yet the team still got the win. With Rafa available for selection against RSL, Backe opted to throw him back in the starting XI. The Bulls came out flying in the first seven minutes or so, but it didn’t take long for RSL to get on the scoreboard. For some reason, Teemu Tainio was marking Saborio on a corner kick, and was easily out-muscled by the Costa Rican and found the back of the net. No one particularly at fault there, just a good goal.
The last two, however, are a different story. On both of Espindola’s goals, Ream and Marquez left Frank Rost out to dry. Ream inexplicably gave the ball away in the six for an easy tap in. And in the 21st minute, a lofted through ball caught the New York backline flat-footed, but don’t worry, Rafa was there to flail his arms in disapproval. Top-notch stuff.
Post game, Dave Martinez of Empire of Soccer caught up with Rafa (who was booed mercilessly all night) to get his thoughts. Here are some of his quotes (you can check out the full article here, video here):
- “If you watched the game, there were individual errors that you can’t do anything about. If we look at statistics, I stole a lot of balls. I think I made two or three bad passes out of 30 plus attempts. I almost didn’t commit any errors, so I am not worried. I think I am playing at my maximum level, and doing everything I can. I don’t have, unfortunately, four defenders on my level that can help me out.”
- “Tim is still a young player with a lot to learn. He still has quite a lot to learn, and well, he has committed errors that are very infantile and cost us goals.”
- “I think that this is a team game, and unfortunately, there isn’t an equal level between perhaps (Thierry Henry) and myself, and our teammates.”
Wow, I honestly was in shock. You gotta have some big balls to say that. Exactly how you’d expect a leader and veteran to act, right? In all honesty, I would much rather have Carlos Mendes or even Stephen Keel start at CB. They may not have half the talent Rafa does, but they’ll give you their all every time, and that’s something the stats won’t show you. All of this is coming from someone who’s been in Rafa’s corner longer than most other Red Bulls’ fans. Now, I’ve just about had enough. If you watch the game recap, Luke Rodgers addresses the fans booing Rafa, and sticks up for his teammate. Bet he said that before he heard how much of a fan Rafa is of his fellow teammates not named Henry.
I gotta say though, lots of credit to Backe for suspending Marquez for the Portland game. It was the right decision and absolutely needed to be done. It’ll be interesting to see how this affair affects the team tomorrow. Do you think the team is better off without Rafa? Has the Rafa Experiment been a failure? Lemme know down below.
P.S. I’m looking to sell three tickets to the Philly game in October. Reach me by email, Twitter, or Facebook if you’re interested.
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