HARRISON, N.J. – Rafa Márquez is aiming to push past his troubling calf injury once and for all, and it appears he will get the chance to do so in the New York Red Bulls’ busy upcoming stretch of games.
The Red Bulls will play three pivotal Eastern Conference games in eight days, starting with Saturday’s home game against the Columbus Crew (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online), and Márquez plans to get back into the groove of things slowly after being limited to just nine appearances in 2012. That, Márquez says, will be the only way to avoid aggravating the lingering knock that has kept him out of the starting lineup since July 15.
“I’ve got to work little by little,” said Márquez. “I expect to play 60 to 70 minutes at a good level because we have three games in a week and that [approach] will help me be 100 percent for all three of them.”
Márquez touched on his desire to get back into the mix for New York, saying he was “very hungry to get back and help” during the stretch run of the season after being out for so many games. But another topic the Designated Player touched on was his recent trip to Mexico, where he received treatment on his left calf.
“I went specifically to rehab and I worked for two weeks morning and night during that time,” said Márquez. “I didn’t go on vacation. I went to recuperate.”
The calf knock may have forced Márquez to go back to his native Mexico, but he missed out on his national team’s most recent World Cup qualifiers because of the injury. Márquez acknowledged that El Tri are in a good spot with having already qualified for the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but he also admitted that it was tough not to be able to partake in those matches.
“It was difficult, but it’s like with the Red Bulls,” said Márquez. “I just want to play and when I’m not healthy and not able to play, it’s frustrating.”
If Márquez plays on Saturday, it seems he will do so off the bench. Head coach Hans Backe said the Mexican veteran has put in some good training sessions in the past week, but that the team is taking a cautious approach to his return.
“He’s fit, he’s been training well and as always when players coming back from injuries, you need to be smart to not pick up new injuries,” said Backe. “The number of minutes he can play, I’m not really sure.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.