The New York Red Bulls dropped their home half of an aggregate conference semi-final series 1-0 against the L.A. Galaxy, but surprisingly, that wasn’t the highlight of the night. Instead, a heated match bubbled over after the final whistle with an all out melee near midfield that resulted in the post game expulsion of two players.
As the final whistle blew, enigmatic midfielder Rafa Marquez threw the ball at a jawing Landon Donovan, hitting the Galaxy captain in the back of the leg. Big Galaxy forward Adam Cristman caught the infraction, and immediately stepped to Marquez, challenging the petulant act face to face. Cristman bumped the Mexican captain and Marquez retaliated with a right hook that went wide. Red Bull players jumped in to stop the fracas. Meanwhile, Juninho jumped into the fray, landing an elbow to Red Bulls center back Stephen Keel’s mouth before a bench clearing brawl ensued.
The melee resulted in a red card suspension for Rafa Marquez for throwing a ball at Donovan’s back, while a subsequent red was handed to Juninho for getting physically involved with Keel.
For his part, Stephen Keel brushed off the confrontation and played down the effect of his apparent blow to the face. “I just got knocked in the mouth a little bit,” Keel stated. “Nothing major. It’s not a big deal.”
“That stuff is going to happen,” he continued. “It’s just a bloody lip. I think my brother has given me worse ones than these. I’ll be fine, no big deal.”
Landon Donovan, however, was a bit less forgiving. “There are a few plays where they took some cheap shots at us,” said the Galaxy captain post game. “In all my years in this league, I’ve not played against a cheaper team, and they’ve been doing it all year. We saw it a few weeks ago with (Thierry) Henry kneeing (Sporting K.C.’s Roger Espinoza) in the back. We’ve seen that stuff all year. You just deal with it, and at the end of it, the cream rose to the top, and the better team won.”
Henry, who picked up a yellow card after a few tough infractions, including a pointed challenge against the Galaxy’s David Beckham, spoke to his teammate and long time friend Marquez post game, but added little insight to the situation. “He said he threw the ball or something like that. I don’t know but at that time I was clapping to our fans.”
“That’s not what you want to see at the end of the game,” Henry continued. “I would like to say that. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, stuff like that happens.”
Naturally, Rafa Marquez was unavailable for comments. In fact, the last time Marquez spoke to the media was after the Real Salt Lake loss on September 21st when he made his infamous comments to ‘Empire” regarding his teammates level of play and Tim Ream’s “infantile” defending.
Sadly, the ruckus end to the match took away from a hard fought battle which was wrought with physical play, tension, and drama in its own right. With both sides being separated to their respective corners, you can be sure New York and L.A. will come out swinging for one more round this Thursday night at the Home Depot Center.