The best indicator of future performance is past performance, according to an old maxim. By that logic, surely there’s nobody left who feels Rafael Marquez can rectify his abominable form since joining New York Red Bulls in August 2010.
Marquez ambled through last season with the air of a man who wanted to be anywhere but at his place of employment. A summer of injury and amateurish blunders ended with New York suspending the Mexican international for one game after publicly blaming his colleagues for the team’s dysfunctional performances. He received a further three-game ban for instigating the ugly scenes that marred the Red Bulls’ first-leg playoff defeat to Los Angeles Galaxy.
The $4.6 million-a-year defender has only been back from that suspension for three games. Now he faces another spell in purgatory after dislodging San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Shea Salinas from Saturday’s 2-2 tie at Red Bull Arena shortly before half-time with a fractured collarbone.
That incident, coupled with an injury to Quakes defender Victor Bernardez, caused a lengthy delay that drained the excitement from an entertaining tussle. San Jose looked more composed in the second half despite the enforced substitutions. Frank Yallop’s side were unable to conjure a winner.
Red Bulls Head Coach Hans Backe stuck with the same 11 players that won 4-1 at Columbus Crew a week earlier. New signing Wilman Conde remains sidelined with a groin injury. Mehdi Ballouchy retained his place on the left of midfield instead of Joel Lindpere.
San Jose contained one change from the team that ended Vancouver Whitecaps’ impenetrable start to the season with a 3-1 win at Buck Shaw Stadium on April 7. Khari Stephenson partnered Chris Wondolowski in attack as Yallop switched to a conventional 4-4-2 system from 4-5-1. English midfielder Simon Dawkins dropped to the bench.
Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper have been in prolific form this season, notching 13 of New York’s 14 goals going into Saturday’s game. It took the Red Bulls’ strike pairing just five minutes to break through San Jose’s back line.
Dax McCarty tried to spin inside Rafael Baca from Roy Miller’s throw, but Henry stepped in as the ball ran away from the former F.C. Dallas midfielder. The Frenchman feinted to shoot from the edge of the box before sliding a perfect pass to Cooper between Earthquakes’ center-backs Bernardez and Justin Morrow. The 6-foot-3-inch forward took a couple of touches before side-footing his shot past Jon Busch.
San Jose didn’t show much on the ball in the opening stages, but they drew level on 15 minutes after a quick change of tempo. Sam Cronin pressured McCarty into a poor touch in midfield and Baca beat Marquez to the loose ball. The 22-year-old Mexican midfielder found Wondolowski and continued his darting run into the penalty area as his vastly more experienced countryman sauntered back. Wondolowski played the ball wide to Stephenson, whose first-time cross found Baca in acres of space to pick his spot past Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara.
Marquez’ inability or unwillingness to track runners was a constant weakness for the Red Bulls’ defense last year and a major factor behind his return to midfield. Right-back Jan Gunnar Solli should have seen that his floundering teammate needed a bail out as Baca approached the box. The Norwegian didn’t react to the danger.
Red Bulls Sumptuous In Attack, Supine In Defense
Henry has spent the past three weeks doing exactly what you’d expect a $5.6 million-a-year striker to do in Major League Soccer – punish sloppy defending by scoring a hatful of goals. The Red Bulls captain’s proficiency has magnified his team’s confidence since their opening defeats in Dallas and Salt Lake City, and the hosts quickly shrugged off San Jose’s equalizer.
A spell of steady possession on 18 minutes almost led to Henry’s eighth goal in four games. The Frenchman peeled off Bernardez’ shoulder to take a long ball over the top from Miller. His touch just eluded him as he tried to bring the ball down on the run.
Dane Richards’ improved form led to New York’s second goal on 22 minutes. The Jamaican held off Salinas in midfield before outpacing Baca and Ramiro Corrales down the right wing. Corrales’ needless lunge opened space for Richards to pick out a cross. Cooper helped the ball on to McCarty, who expertly got his body over the ball to drill his shot low into Busch’s left corner from 16 yards. It was McCarty’s first goal since arriving in New York last June.
Richards was now in one of those moods when he can terrorize opposing defenders. He sent over another dangerous low cross after accelerating away from Baca on 27 minutes. Busch did well to smother the ball as Henry closed in.
The former Arsenal striker had another chance to get on the scoresheet from Marquez’ long ball on 28 minutes. His touch failed him for a second time. A mitigating factor is that it’s extremely difficult to control a 40-yard pass on the run as defenders converge. A criticism is that Henry is good enough to do this.
New York’s lack of defensive awareness undermined their attacking play again on 35 minutes. Earthquakes right-back Steven Beitashour checked onto his left foot after receiving a cross-field pass from Corrales and flighted a deep cross to the back post. The Red Bulls had enough players in defensive positions to deal with the situation, but they stood expecting the ball to drift out for a goal kick. Salinas sprinted to keep it in play and deftly flicked it back toward the 6-yard line. Wondolowski, bouncing around on his toes like a prize fighter, flung himself at the loose ball to head it past Meara.
Wondolowski’s seventh goal of the season brought him level atop the MLS scoring chart with Cooper and Henry.
Suddenly New York were rattled and failing to deal with San Jose’s forward runs. Marvin Chavez found space over the top on 42 minutes as Stephen Keel, Markus Holgersson and Solli failed to keep a compact line. His burst into the penalty area led to the ill-fated corner that altered the game.
Cheating Marquez Causes Further Shame
San Jose could have received a penalty kick from three separate corners in the first half. Marquez could have received a red card. The Mexican seemed more interested in lucha libre than heading the ball clear. Referee Ricardo Salazar and his assistants somehow failed to spot each incident.
The Earthquakes’ first corner kick on 19 minutes saw a lot of pushing and shoving as five San Jose players bunched together before exploding in different directions. Marquez’ countered this by wrapping his arms around an opponent and wrestling them to the ground.
The misfiring millionaire collided with Miller on that first corner, almost causing the Costa Rican to bundle the ball into his own net. His bungling had a more serious outcome on 42 minutes. Salinas tumbled outside the 6-yard box as Marquez manhandled him away from goal. The Mexican’s full weight crashed down on the San Jose midfielder, and an unnatural kick out with his right leg added further injury on the way down.
Bernardez sprained his knee ligaments as the play continued.
Dawkins lined up on the left of midfield for San Jose in the second half with Chavez switching to the right. The Honduran winger was also fortunate to stay on the field when his scything challenge on Miller on 52 minutes produced only a yellow card.
Backe threw on Lindpere for Ballouchy on 61 minutes in an attempt to revitalize his team, but their momentum had been lost. Chavez curled a left-foot shot just wide of Meara’s goal on 74 minutes as the visitors took control of the midfield, and Wondolowski spurned an injury-time chance by delaying when he had a chance to shoot from 20 yards.
It doesn’t matter where Marquez plays for New York Red Bulls. The man is a hindrance to the team and an embarrassment to the league. His actions blemished what had, until then, been an impressive offensive display by the Red Bulls, albeit with their usual defensive problems tossed in.
San Jose finished the game in the ascendency. A little more adventure from Yallop toward the end could have seen them flying home with three points.