UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The return of Rafa Márquez from a month-long layoff due to an injury suffered in the Gold Cup is good news for a Red Bulls team that has had its fair share of recent defensive struggles.
Márquez went the full 90 minutes last weekend in a 2-2 tie with FC Dallas, and the Mexican international will travel with the first team to London this weekend to play in the Emirates Cup, in which they'll play Paris St. Germain and Arsenal.
“It is a great opportunity to show who we are and the kind of team we are capable of being,” Márquez told MLSsoccer.com. “We will play two very good teams in the cup and we want to show well, but we will have to play our best if we want to represent the team at its highest level. It will be a challenge for us.”
Márquez’s return to the Red Bulls back line brings stability to the team as the former Barcelona defender boasts fantastic vision and poise. The Designated Player will be counted on during the Emirates tournament to keep the team defensively tight against world-class competition.
Despite the thrill of playing in these big games, Márquez is diplomatic about his expectations against Champions League-caliber clubs.
“This trip is a chance to play against teams that are very good, quality opponents with good players on the field and even on the bench,” Márquez said. “The actual result and purpose of this trip is not about the result as much as it’s about the way we play and what we get from it as a team.”
After training at Montclair State University on Wednesday morning, Márquez was greeted by around a dozen Mexico fans, half of whom were wearing Red Bulls jerseys. He graciously posed for picture after picture, signed jerseys and spent several minutes connecting with these fans. Because of his stature with the national team, Márquez is frequently besieged by reporters and television cameras after games and practice.
It is an ambassador role he embraces with his new club.
“There is a big community of Mexicans in this area, and I feel the love they have for me at games; I feel their support,” Márquez said. “These are people who come here to work hard and have a passion for the game. I am thankful their support.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
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