The failure of Rafael Marquez
August 16, 2011
If the list of best Designated Players in MLS history was written today, Juan Pablo Angel's name would top it, but Thierry Henry would not be far behind. Rafael Marquez? He would be lucky to be listed above Claudio Reyna.
There was so much brouhaha last season over Henry's signing, leaving Marquez to slip under the radar. In any other MLS city, the signing of the captain of the Mexican national team would draw incredible interest; here, he was seen as second fiddle to the Frenchman. But nevertheless, a loaded multi-year contract was given out to a player that was supposed to help Metro's fortunes on the field and in the stands.
To say that it hasn't happened is an understatement.
When Marquez plays for the Mexican national team, one can see the fire in his eyes. When he suits up for Metro, the only thing his eyes show is passing interest, as attackers blow by him. Marquez was brought to shore up the defense, but so far it has been as leaky as a colander. This is when he gets on the field; he has missed numerous games to injuries, injuries which were deemed not serious enough to miss time with his national team.
Last year, Marquez was plopped in defensive midfield, and the results were adequate, as he did well to thwart the opposition, and his precise passes helped set up numerous Metro attacks. (That is, until we got to the deciding playoff game, and he was beyond awful.) This year, his move to central defense leaves much to be desired, as faster, more direct attackers seem to give Marquez a never-ending headache.
We are not here to question Marquez' salary ($5.5 million last year, $4.6 now), for that is Red Bull's decision. What we are questioning is the validity of spending a Designated Player slot on someone who is an average MLS defender -- at best. Does Metro lose much by having Carlos Mendes partner Tim Ream instead of Marquez? One can make the argument that they actually improve with that change, especially when one considers how well the defense played late last year with that pairing. So why pay Marquez an enormous amount of money for a job that Mendes can do for his measly, by comparison, salary of $98,000?
The Designated Player slots are precious. The $335,000 cap hit a team takes on for each DP is an enormous strain. Everyone from Erik Soler on down will admit that the team right now is faulty. Alas, they are so against the cap (even after giving away some quality players to free up space) that moves to strengthen the squad might not be possible.
And off the field? Marquez or no Marquez, the attendance has hovered around the same mark. To say that team recognition has improved after his signing would be a lie. Again, we are not here to count Red Bull's millions, but there has to be a better way to spend them.
But we are here to count Metro's record, a pedestrian mark, with just two wins in the last four months (TWO wins in FOUR months!), with the playoffs now in danger. And the failure of Rafael Marquez has a lot to do with that.