Everybody who's anybody seems to be hating on Rafael Marquez lately.
He was thoroughly booed Wednesday night by the South Ward. He's been the subject of article after article calling into question his worth. And now, he's suspended for Saturday's match with the Timbers.
The $4.6 million man's been having a tough year. Since the outset of the MLS regular season his set pieces have been questionable and his injury in the Gold Cup final certainly didn't help things. But for a guy who played for one of the world's most prestigious clubs in Barcelona, more is to be expected, if only for this obvious statement of fact: MLS is not La Liga.
No doubt that Marquez is catching some of the run off from the Red Bulls long, slow, painstaking descent into mediocrity through the summer. Everyone in the stands is frustrated, as they should be, and everyone in the dressing room should be, too, if they aren't already. This team is far too talented to be hanging around for the last playoff spot, let alone going more than a month without a win.
But Marquez is representative of exactly what this team should not be: overpaid, lackadaisical, elitist. Rafa Marquez in 2011 is all of these things.
This season, he was supposed to hold down the back line with Tim Ream. For $4.6 million, the Red Bulls could have roughly 45 and a half Carlos Mendeses, who gets paid a little more than $100,000 and has done just as good a job.
While not every goal against this season can be attributed to Marquez, there are quite a few, as evidenced by this fine article from Kick Off Online from last month. And from Grant Whal at SI.com:
"He has looked uninterested, too slow as a back-line defender and too careless as a holding central midfielder."
While being overpaid and lackadaisical is bad enough, the last thing this Red Bulls side needs is a locker room cancer, which is exactly what Marquez seems to want to become. It's one thing to gesture at booing fans, who are rightfully upset with your performance. But it's another thing entirely to look at the rest of the team and say "well, they're not on my level." Or, as his interpreter put it more accurately after Wednesday's game:
"I'm focusing on really performance at my highest level. That doesn't mean that the whole back line can perform at that same level, so that's a problem. ... I think this is a team game, and unfortunately there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I."
Or this brilliant little tidbit reported by Empire of Soccer from the same post-game fallout where he throws Ream under the bus:
"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."
Luke Rodgers was on Extra Time Radio on Monday and said there's good chemistry in the dressing room. If this team is to go to the playoffs and win an MLS Cup, they're going to do it for each other, Rodgers said. The last thing the team needs is a distraction when they desperately need points.
His self-righteous rant earned his suspension Wednesday. His play has earned him a one way flight out of Newark International Airport.
We all know the Bulls need to make some changes when the season comes to a close. Marquez was already on that list - if only for his salary and the team's lack of depth - but now it's a race between Backe and Marquez for who's first out.