TUCSON, Ariz. – Rafa Márquez was humble and conciliatory after his second-half sub shift against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
And that’s the right tone for the Mexican Designated Player, since this was his last appearance before he’ll be forced to open the 2012 season by serving his two-game suspension for his role in the postgame melee between the New York Red Bulls and the LA Galaxy in last fall’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
“This was the last game of the preseason,” Márquez told reporters after the third-place match of the Desert Diamond Cup, a 1-0 Red Bulls loss, “so although I’m suspended for the first games, I’m going to help the team.”
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 1, New York 0
Márquez played well in his 45 minutes on Saturday, distributing some nice balls over the top from his central midfield spot and taking most of New York’s set pieces. That position is hopefully where he’ll spend most of this season after Hans Backe shifted the erstwhile center back further up the pitch in the second half of last year.
According to the former Barcelona man, he’ll play wherever his coach puts him.
“I’m in the position where they put me,” Márquez continued. “I believe it’s more important to be able to help the team, to try to make the team strong in all ways, in all aspects and nothing else but to do my part to help.”
That humble attitude is perhaps in stark contrast to some of the dicier moments during an up-and-down 2011, when Márquez was often a firebrand of controversy. But he’s well aware that he had a big hand in dooming his team in last year’s postseason thanks to that infamous red card.
This year, Márquez says he’s pleased with the improved depth around him in New York, and the objectives are obvious.
“Of course, [we’re] stronger than last year,” he said. “We’ve worked a lot, there are new players that have come with much quality, eager to help, so our expectations are to reach the final.”