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Studying the Red Bulls’ Rafa Marquez conundrum

New York Red Bulls Media Day

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22: Rafa Marquez #4 of the New York Red Bulls has looks on during a training session at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2012 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

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I really enjoyed reading this insightful analysis of Rafa Marquez and the question so many keep asking: wouldn’t the Red Bulls be better off without him?

The most compelling information is the Red Bulls bottom-line number this year in the matches where Marquez cared enough / was healthy enough to play: They are 6-1-4 with him in the lineup, just 8-7-4 without. Color me surprised on that one.

I just cannot help shake the feeling that, in the long run, the team is better without him. Come the playoffs, that lazy tracking will cost the Red Bulls a goal and then we will all be in agreement on this thing.

Past that, I have three things to say about all this:

  • From what I understand, the Red Bulls’ bean counters are not concerned about what the former Mexican international does or doesn’t do for the club on the field. Because Marquez’s marketing value to the Red Bull brand down in Mexico is pure gold. He’s earning that $4.6 million salary for the mother ship – even if he only plays just often enough to actually keep calling himself a professional soccer player.
  • Thierry Henry keeps defending Marquez, insisting that fans and media are remiss in seeing what the man brings to the game. Only, that’s just partially true. Yes, Marquez can zing in the passes from midfield and drop the sweet stuff over the back line for Henry to run onto. Fair enough there. But wouldn’t we expect Henry to favor a guy who contributes heavily to offense? On the other hand, what Marquez does not do on defense can crush the team. But, you know, defense shmefense.
  • I hate that Marquez being on the field takes Dax McCarty out of the position in which he has excelled. McCarty has been one of the league’s best midfielders this year. Period. The Red Bulls players can surely see it. So, what is the overall effect inside the locker room when a guy who has performed so well at a certain position gets moved out of the position by a guy who may or may not really care enough to do the running and tracking that position requires?

But never mind all that. He sells shirts in Mexico. He keeps the brooding Henry happy. He’s Rafa! So, the Red Bull Rafa roller coaster zooms on and on – while so many of us just shake our heads.