Rafa Marquez's departure is welcome, but after a long two years it's more a relief than a cause for celebration.
At the end of the day, Rafael Marquez's departure was a lot like his tenure, some promise in the form of rumors, but nothing. It ended frustratingly -- no sale, so no extra allocation cash -- just like his Red Bulls career did, with a stupid red card, Chris Pontius postulated was intentional.
In truth, Marquez wasn't all bad. He had a few games where he showed real promise, like the kind of player most expected to get when he came over on a free transfer from FC Barcelona. As these moments came and went, I mused here that maybe, just maybe, Marquez wanted to be the sort of player that earned over 100 caps for Mexico. With each ball he dropped over the top to Thierry Henry or game-saving tackle there was the chance that Marquez turned a corner.
But that's where it ended. A few moments of brilliance from a player who, the rest of the time, seemed like he couldn't care less about the team, his teammates or the score line after the final whistle blows.
That's why we fans overreacted when he told Tim Ream and the rest of the back line that they're not on his level or when he went to Mexico for treatment, even if the Red Bulls medical staff has proven iffy. That's why these things get beaten to death. That's why when it was announced this morning that Marquez was leaving, Red Bulls fans celebrated, but it didn't seem to be the kind of thing we all envisioned when #RafaWatch started. What it really was, was relief. Relief that a player who had started as a controversial addition, became enraging and ended as an inevitability had finally left.
Because that's what he became: an inevitability. He'd inevitably let us down. He'd inevitably have another physical breakdown that would keep him off the field. He'd inevitably come back and serve as a traffic cone-turnstile in the center of the park. No more petulance. No more storming off the field. No more throwing teammates under the bus. No more wondering how Marquez will blow the game this week.
Even Marquez rumors took a toll on the fans. Wednesday night -- when, in just a few hours Marquez would be released -- the Twitter chatter had all but stopped. When we all woke up the next morning he was gone. And there wasn't much to say, because everything that could've been said had been said. There came a point when even Erik Soler admitted Marquez wasn't the man they signed to a $4.6 million contract. It got to a point, page views be damned, that hacking together #RafaWatch post after #RafaWatch post became a chore. Part of every Red Bulls watcher knew it had to be the end, even if we were wondering if Marquez would let us down. Again.
While snarky columns about Double-0 Marquez infiltrating and sabotaging American soccer or top 10 lists of Marquez's greatest blunders or awarding him the title of "worst DP ever" seem apopro, it's old hat at this point, at least for us in New York. Instead of conjuring all the things the team of Andy Roxburgh, Gerard Houllier and Ricardo Campos can do with the $300,000-plus, open international slot and open designated player slot freed by Marquez's departure, you're left with a sort of anxiety hangover one gets after a particularly stressful deadline.
In the end, what matters is what the Red Bulls are left with -- the aforementioned $300,000, an open international slot and an open designated player slot -- because that's the only thing remotely new about the situation.
It's almost fitting that a player who left so much to be desired is defined by the roster space he leaves open, not the skill we'll be missing.