Rafa Marquez at Center of New York Red Bulls' Problems

Phil Shore@@PShore15Correspondent ISeptember 22, 2011

HARRISON, NJ - AUGUST 13: Rafa Marquez #4 of the New York Red Bulls plays the ball against the Chicago Fire during the game at Red Bull Arena on August 13, 2011 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

Many things have plagued the New York Red Bulls this season. They finished first in the East in 2010 and are 7-7-15 on the brink of missing the playoffs this season, despite the fact that the postseason was expanded to include 10 teams (out of the 18 in the league).

One of those things is the play, attitude and salary of center back Rafa Marquez.

Don’t tell him that though.

The Red Bulls lost to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday 3-1, seemingly reaching their lowest point of the season. Dragging the team down with him was Marquez, who was responsible for the third goal when he did not stop the ball, letting Fabian Espindola dribble down the middle of the field.

“I'm focusing on really performing at my highest level. That doesn't mean that the whole back line can perform at that same level, so that's a problem,” Marquez told reporters after the game. “I think this is a team game, and unfortunately there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I.”

Someone should tell him the boos from the Red Bulls fans every time he touched the ball were indeed for the captain of the Mexican National Team, not Tim Ream or Jan Gunnar Solli.

As a Designated Player, Marquez is making $4.6 million this season. He’s only played in 15 of the team’s 29 matches, mostly because of his commitment to his National Team.

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He plays well for Mexico. Marquez played in 11 games for his country in 2011, made his 100th cap for the team and scored in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, en route to winning the trophy.

When he suits up for the Red Bulls, though, it’s a different story.

He’s supposed to be the backbone of the defense and the veteran leader. However, Marquez often looks passive and uninterested in the game at hand. He’s sloppy and no longer the crisp passer he was when he came over last season.

Too often the Red Bulls are beaten by a player on set-pieces or when slicing down the middle of the field, because Marquez either refuses to step to the ball or he does not pick up a man in the box.

He also spends more time complaining to the referees than anything else.

To start the season, he was relieved of corner kick duties due to not hitting a good enough ball. Coincidentally, the game after he was removed from that role, the team scored off a penalty kick.

It’s gotten to the point where the team plays better without him.

Saturday in Dallas, Marquez did not play and the Red Bulls got their first win since July 6, winning 1-0.

Then he’s back in the lineup in a home game against Real Salt Lake and they lose 3-1. Coincidence? I think not.

Marquez has been detrimental to the team on the field. His poor demeanor is now showing up off the field and affecting the team’s play even more.

The veteran should know better. He should know nothing good comes out of publicly criticizing and bashing your teammates, especially when you’re a big part of the problem.

Marquez should be held accountable for his actions both on and off the field. His play, attitude and comments deserve to be punished.

That punishment can only be one thing at the very least: a benching.

Maybe without Marquez around, the Red Bulls can get back to team play and winning. And they won’t need to waste $4.6 million on him.

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