UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – If Thierry Henry has not already made it clear that he is firmly entrenched in Rafa Márquez’s corner, then what the New York Red Bulls captain said on Tuesday surely will.
Speaking to reporters, Henry was asked if his own heroic performance in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew was a sign that he was back in top form. But rather than talk about himself, Henry once again took the opportunity to praise Márquez, calling the oft-criticized midfielder the X-factor in New York’s hopes of finally ending their trophy-less drought this season.
“I know it might be boring and some guys might not like it, but the key for us to win the MLS is Rafael Márquez,” Henry told reporters. “I’ve told you so many times and I will repeat it. He could not show it because he was injured, but if he’s on form it’s another game for us.
“The guys at the back feel like they can give him the ball all the time and then the passes he did to me or his vision, the way he can calm the team down. I’m not putting everything on him, don’t get me wrong, [but] if Rafa is fit, that’s the most important thing. Trust me.”
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Márquez performed well in his first start in two months and head coach Hans Backe has said he is not opposed to starting the Mexican international on short rest and letting him go the distance when the Red Bulls host Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night (7 pm ET, watch on MLS LIVE).
Still, Márquez is taking a more cautious approach to the crucial Eastern Conference clash.
“I’ve been going little by little in my return [from a calf injury], I almost went two months without playing, but I’ll go little by little tomorrow and I’ll see how I feel,” Márquez said. “If I can play 90, then I will.”
Another strong performance by Márquez would surely defuse some of the detractors, but that is something the 33-year-old says is the furthest from his mind.
“The thing that matters most to me is to help my team, no matter what the team or fans think or say. That’s the least of my concern,” said Márquez. “As long as I can play, that is most important to me.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.