UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – What was a rough and rocky 2011 for Red Bulls midfielder Rafa Márquez will hopefully fade away and lead to a harmonious 2012.
Márquez missed a chunk of the summer while captaining the Mexican national team to the Gold Cup and then was out subsequent games with an injury suffered in the tournament’s final. He also endured plenty of hurdles on and off the field as well, as his form was suspect, marred with lackluster play and poor giveaways. Complicating matters were his comments critical of teammates late in the season, which led to a team suspension.
Following a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Sept. 21, the Designated Player lashed out at teammates for not being at his “level.” He was suspended the next game – a Red Bulls win – for his outburst.
But with an offseason now in between the 2011 campaign and the upcoming 2012 season, it seems the time off helped Márquez reflect and reconsider those words.
“At a certain point in time, I was misinterpreted,” Marquez said on Thursday, addressing the English-speaking media for the first time since his suspension, and even recognizing his own play wasn't up to par. "There were times the media might take one of the comments the wrong way. I wasn’t at a level that I wanted to be. There are new opportunities now in 2012 and present a new chance for us, and for me, to capture my final goal, which is to win MLS Cup.”
On top of those infamous comments, there was also the red card he received in the first leg of the playoff series against the LA Galaxy, a 1-0 loss at Red Bull Arena, for throwing the ball at Landon Donovan after the final whistle. That action earned him a three-game suspension, which will cost him the first two matches of this season. Márquez didn’t talk about the incident in depth, saying it was “in the past,” but did say he addressed his teammates, head coach Hans Backe and sporting director Erik Solér to apologize after each one of the incidents.
“I spoke to them when the time was the right moment to speak to them,” Márquez said. “When the incident happened, I was able to talk to them immediately afterwards and clear the air and tell them what my intentions were at that point in time.”
Still, his actions fueled rumors – some attributed to Márquez himself – of an impending departure to Mexican club Atlas, the team with which he turned pro, and Brazilian side Flamengo. Although Backe told reporters there were no offers coming in for his Designated Player during the offseason, Márquez said otherwise.
“For a moment, there was a serious approach to try [and] get me down there,” Márquez said, “but at the end of the day nothing really happened. Yes, I had a not only options in Europe but in Mexico [and Brazil], but at the end of the day, I gave my word and I’m committed to this team. I gave my word to this team and this club and I’m here to succeed.”
Márquez gets a new chance to back up his words during the team's preseason, which kicked off on Thursday, and once the regular season begins for New York on March 11 at FC Dallas.