3:16 pm Apr. 20, 2012
Everybody has had it with Rafa Marquez of the New York Red Bulls.
The sometime defensive midfielder, sometime center back, and permanent target of ire from fans at Red Bull Arena was suspended for three games after essentially making a football tackle on San Jose midfielder Shea Salinas and then kicking him in the neck, breaking his collarbone.
The hit was merely the latest incident involving Marquez, whose noteworthy moments since signing with New York in the summer of 2010 have been mostly of the infamous variety, even though he is the third-highest paid player in Major League Soccer, behind only David Beckham and Thierry Henry.
Marquez drew a team suspension late last season for his deeply critical remarks of teammate Tim Ream following a match in which Marquez didn't play very well himself. He then got himself suspended at the end of the first leg of New York's battle with eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy for throwing a ball at Landon Donovan's head at the conclusion of play, a suspension that carried over into this season. And now, he'll miss another three games for an obviously dirty hit.
Even Red Bull management has gotten frustrated.
"Any player that puts the team at risk during a game because of cards or suspension is worrying," Soler told the New York Post. "Rafa is a special player for us. We'd rather have no incidents than any incidents, so I think with him or anybody else it's something we're going to speak to him about and see if there's anything that needs adjusting."
The problem is, Marquez hasn't been a special player for New York. His temper is nothing new. There was his deliberate headbutt of Cobi Jones back in 2002. There was his spiking of goalkeeper Tim Howard in 2009. And those are just his USA/Mexico cheap shots.
But what the Red Bulls have gotten for their Designated Player money is all the Marquez nastiness and none of the technical skill that has made him a critical player in the past for, among others, Barcelona and the Mexican national team. The idea that Mexican fans would flock to Red Bull Arena to see Marquez is a laughable one if Marquez is never on the pitch.
Worse still, his suspension comes at a time when the Red Bulls are badly undermanned in the back due to injuries. Teemo Tainio, a defensive midfielder, won't play this week, nor will defenders Wilman Conde or Roy Miller. Markus Holgersson, an import brought in to solidify central midfield, has been wildly inconsistent. Now Marquez is out too, not only against DC United this Sunday, but next Saturday against New England and the May 5 matchup in Los Angeles against the Galaxy.
Maybe it is for the best that New York learns how to play without him. With the summer transfer window opening on June 27, there's a good chance his time in New York is coming to an end, assuming anyone will take him. A Mexican team is the best bet, but the Red Bulls will probably have to pay a good bit of the salary in return for nothing. Which wouldn't be much different than what they're doing now.