That’s Dax McCarty talking about the Red Bulls enigmatic Designated Player, Rafa Marquez – and he hits the nail on the head.
Marquez enjoyed yet another remarkable comeback performance in a Red Bull career littered with triumphant returns and head-scratching exits. His class was on full display with the team’s opening goal in New York’s 3-1 route of Columbus; a midfield bomb that landed at the feet of Thierry Henry in the box, splitting Chad Marshall and Julius James for the early lead. “It was a fantastic ball to Theirry,” McCarty acknowledged.
Nearly to man, his teammates all came to the same conclusion (verbatim) after the match; an inspired Marquez brings a “different dimension” to the Red Bulls on both sides of the ball.
“Listen, Rafa this week in training was exceptional,” fellow DP Tim Cahill noted. “Having him back gives us a different dimension. The range of passing and the understanding of playing football; keeping the ball, being patient. Yes he comes very deep, but Rafa has played at the highest level and you can tell tonight with some of the football he played, he was immense. Keeping Rafa fit is going to be a massive key. It was a pleasure being on the same pitch as him.”
His majestic service was a brilliant illustration and reminder of the added threat Marquez can bring to the table. One tends to forget that very skill compelled Coach Hans Backe to institute what was then known as the “empty bucket” 4-4-2, with Marquez playing long bombs to both Thierry Henry and the speedy Dane Richards from the stripe. In fact, it was so effective New York began to look quite one dimensional because of it.
The strategy, though short lived, was effective in the team’s final run towards the playoffs in 2010. On Saturday night, it was a lethal wrinkle that kept the Crew’s centerbacks on their heels throughout the encounter.
“When Rafa plays, I have another option,” Thierry Henry noted. “I can move behind the defense, and you saw it tonight. How many times you saw me dropping tonight? None. How many times you saw me going behind the defense? Every single time. It’s another dimension for me when Rafa plays; he has that game. Therefore for me, it’s a bit better and you saw it on the goal, but you know exactly where I stand on Rafa.”
Added McCarty: “His record on the field speaks for itself. I don’t think we’ve lost with him on the field. He takes a lot of stick from the fans and the media sometimes, but he is a great player. You don’t play in Barcelona, you don’t play in World Cups, and you don’t play in over 100 caps for Mexico unless you’re a good player.”
His skill has never been in question; his fiery attitude on and off the field has. Honing those 60 minutes of excellence and transforming them into consistent 90 minute performances has proven to be a difficult task for New York, but as was displayed Saturday night – it is an imperative goal to achieve.
“I mean, he is precise,” Coach Backe acknowledged. “When you give him time and space definitely he can be very precise and turn, or if it’s cross the final pass, whatever. I said, calm down sometimes and commence your own build up, your attacking game, you don’t get too hectic. So 60 minutes was perfect for him tonight.”
“He comes back and gives us a different dimension,” McCarty said. “It moved me out of the middle but you don’t complain about it. You just take it on the chin and you want to perform well for the team no matter where you are.”