UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – A large chunk of New York Red Bulls’ supporters may not be big on Designated Player Rafa Márquez, but one person who is clearly in his corner is Thierry Henry.
The Red Bulls forward stood in front of a media scrum on Thursday morning to field questions about the upcoming match against Toronto FC. And after answering a question about the young American players that have stepped up for the club, Henry made a point of praising the oft-criticized Marquez.
“Rafa is the boss for me,” Henry told reporters. “He just showed it. You got to respect that. Things happen on the field to me, to a lot of players, but I invite a lot of people to watch [last Sunday’s 3-2 win against D.C. United].
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“People didn’t talk a lot about it. He calms everybody down at the back. When there is chaos or whatever, he puts the ball down, passes it on the ground instead of kicking it in the stands and give it back to D.C., we were going on the counter or keeping the ball again in their half. That’s another story.
“In basketball, they call that a rebound. You have the ball again, and 10 times per half it’s another story than kicking it in the stands and losing it. For me, that’s a big deal.”
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Henry may have been high on the Mexican international’s ability on the field, but he also had kind words about how Márquez comports himself off the field.
“People misunderstand Rafa sometimes,” said Henry, who spent time with Márquez at Spanish heavyweights FC Barcelona before the two joined the Red Bulls in the summer of 2010. “He’s a great person, he’s a competitor, like I can be. Sometimes you can go over the edge, but he’s a great guy. Overall, I hope people understood how valuable Rafa is for us.”
As valuable as he may or may not be, Márquez could miss out this Saturday’s road trip to BMO Field (7 pm ET, Galavision) with a calf injury picked up in last Sunday’s victory. Márquez did not train with the team on Thursday, forced to do individual work off to the side.
Henry, on the other hand, seems all but likely to start against the resurgent Reds, who are coming off a 3-0 victory against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday.
“I think probably, he should be able to do almost 90 [minutes],” said Red Bulls head coach Backe. “Definitely up to 70 but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was up to 90.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.