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The Marquez Saga Continues: Rafa and the Midfield

Teemu on the left, Dax on the right. Is one of them going to have to sit for Rafa Marquez?
Teemu on the left, Dax on the right. Is one of them going to have to sit for Rafa Marquez?

All the Rafael Marquez coverage as of late begs some kind of overblown cable news graphic alerting our readers to MARQUEZAGEDDON 2011. Mostly because this all seems very TV news-y: A story where all the sordid details are already out, the "offended" has come out as unoffended, there and it's been analyzed from angle after angle. Essentially, a story that's over with that remains a story through force of media.

But enough with the media criticism. Back to MARQUEZAGEDDON 2011, since, as Empire of Soccer reported earlier in the week, the embattled Marquez practiced with the reserves Tuesday. Before the speculation begins, just remember he didn't play Saturday.

The more interesting tidbit from that report, though, is Hans Backe alluding to pushing Marquez into the midfield for upcoming matches. It's been bandied about in some circles that Marquez, after turning in some poor performances in the back line, would do better in the midfield.

If you're making a line-up card in your head, you know somebody's got to sit. Who, then, is the odd man out?

Without Marquez in the midfield, the duo of Dax McCarty and Teemu Tainio is Backe's first choice. And they've performed admirably. McCarty, who's had his share of problems in New York, has shown an ability to get forward and distribute. Tainio is, potentially, the most underrated player on the Red Bulls' roster. Without him in the starting XI, the team just isn't the same. With this central midfield set up, the Red Bulls are a better team.

If Marquez is inserted into the line-up, then, McCarty becomes the obvious choice to sit since he's the inferior player to Tainio. But Tainio and Marquez would play the same role as a defensive midfielder. When paired with Tainio, McCarty can get up field and help offensively. With Tainio and Marquez in the midfield, one of the two will have to get forward.

The other option is to change the formation to a 4-5-1, which Backe went to the last time the Red Bulls played Marquez in the midfield. The result: An all-too-predictable 1-1 draw with Vancouver. That relegates Luke Rodgers to the bench, as we all know Thierry Henry is not going to sit.

The problem then becomes what the Red Bulls do with their extremely talented forward corps. Rodgers and Juan Agudelo both add a spark to the game, arguably Rodgers more so than Agudelo. Instead of picking one, changing the formation for Marquez and benching both might not be the best idea. Just look at the results without Rodgers in the starting XI.

But Backe is going to do what Backe wants - see: Medhi Ballouchy. If he does go to a 4-5-1 Marquez better be ready to play, because the season will hinge on how well he can play in that defensive midfield role.