Was Mexico captain Rafa Marquez underappreciated during his MLS days?

Rafa Marquez at 2016 press conference

During their Sunday night Copa America Centenario opener against Uruguay, Mexico came away with a memorable 3-1 victory. But it’s really the second strike, which ultimately proved the gamewinner, that everyone’s still talking about—an 85th-minute blast into the roof of the net, courtesy of Rafa Marquez.

Here was international proof that the captain for both his country and his club, Mexican side Atlas, has still got it—or, really, never lost it. Marquez is such a towering figure that bringing up his age—37 years old—elicits dual reactions along the lines of, “and he still plays like he’s younger!” as well as, “oh, that’s it?” (A couple folks joked on Twitter about his age that it was missing the “1” in front.)

It seems like there has always been Marquez, and will always be Marquez. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but he’s still got some juice—and critics of his brief, kinda painful time in MLS probably wrote him off prematurely.

Okay, so Marquez did not exactly always endear himself to fans during his time at the New York Red Bulls, from 2010 to 2012. (Time and distance didn’t make the rift sting any less—in 2014 he publicly said he “regrets” the move to the New York, calling it a “bad choice.” Ouch.)

If only it had just gone better. Perhaps with fewer injuries, fewer on-field conflicts, and a few kinder words for his teammates, and we could have appreciated these skills he’s still going to bring to El Tri throughout the rest of the Copa America tournament:

  • He may have slowed down a little bit, defensively, in his thirties—but he pretty much never has to play defensively if things all go according to plan. On Sunday night, he thrived in a defensive diamond, protected on all sides and bringing play out from the back. If he doesn’t do as well in one-on-one duels as others, he’s deadly enough in attack that the right formation means he’ll rarely have to deal with them.

  • When he’s on, he’s a great team leader, the kind of authoritative presence to whom younger players can look up. It’s a bummer this didn’t play out in MLS—but with El Tri, players call him “el patron"--the boss. This works both on the field—in the kind of formation that serves him, from within which he can direct the play—as well as off.

  • He can still score goals like this.
    Let’s just watch this again, shall we?

    Bonus: Let’s take this in.

    That's Marquez and his wife, Mexican actress and model Jaydy Michel, who is 42. They’re clearly vampires or something, proof that he’ll be around forever.

    In short, this pretty much sums it up: