UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – A combination of injuries and suspensions has kept Rafa Márquez out of the New York Red Bulls lineup sporadically this season, limiting him to playing in just seven of the club’s 18 matches thus far.
He is hoping to halt that trend this weekend.
Despite being admittedly at less than 100 percent, Márquez is expected to return to New York’s starting lineup on Sunday when the Seattle Sounders pay a visit to Red Bull Arena (4 pm ET, ESPN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). The Designated Player is champing at the bit to get back on the field for the first time since New York’s 3-2 win over D.C. United on June 24, and, once back, hopes to remain there for the rest of the year.
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“Very hungry,” Márquez told reporters on Friday morning when describing how eager he is ahead of Sunday’s game. “The last thing anyone wants is to be injured. I enjoy playing soccer and training, and the last thing I want is to be sidelined with an injury. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with injury this season, but I hope to be able to play in all the remaining games.”
Márquez, who has played in just one of the Red Bulls’ five matches since the international break, is currently dealing with a calf knock picked up in the victory over United. But he is aiming to quickly return to the form he demonstrated in the first couple of months of the season.
“It’s frustrating because I found myself playing well and was helping the team when I was on the field,” Márquez said. “The thing I want more than anything is to get back and help the team any way I can.”
Márquez has performed fairly well during his limited minutes this season, with two assists so far on the year. During his time playing in both central midfield and central defense, he has shown an ability to distribute the ball from deep that adds another dimension to the Red Bulls’ attack.
As to where he will play on Sunday, Márquez doesn't know. But all the Mexican international wants is to contribute to a team that is still vying for first place in the Eastern Conference.
“For me, it’s all the same,” he said. “I’ve said it many times, my natural position is as a central defender. Playing in central midfield is because that is what the coach asks, and I try to do my best at what is asked of me.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.