Are things about to get better or worse around Red Bull Arena with the return of Rafa Marquez from his three-game suspension?
Hans Backe’s team is doing OK lately, after all, having hung on in difficult circumstances two weeks ago against New England (and watching leading scorer Thierry Henry limp off with a pulled hamstring) and were tactically perfect in a huge 1-0 win at Los Angeles.
But Marquez is, indeed available for selection Wednesday against Houston. So is left back Roy Miller, who will probably come regain his left back spot ahead of rookie Conor Lade.
Lade has often looked like a rookie out there. That’s not to say he did badly, because he didn’t. But you got the feeling he was just hanging on sometimes, stretched just to get the job done.
Not so with midfielder Dax McCarty. What Backe told MLSSoccer.com:
I always said and thought that [McCarty’s] strength was from the halfway line and forward. But now perhaps playing a little bit deeper he has the whole picture of the field in front of him. … His passing, he only had two, three unforced errors in this game [against LA]. Overall, defending phenomenal, so let’s see if that is perhaps his position for the future.”
So, do you remove that guy for Marquez, who simply won’t have the range or the energy to get into passing lanes and harass attackers as McCarty has?
The X factor here is scheduling. Specifically, the Red Bulls put a lot into Saturday’s win, and then flew across country to get home. So, even if Marquez can’t improve on the McCarty-Joel Lindpere-Mehdi Ballouchy central triangle, there may be some value in his presence.