At the risk of beating this to death, even after it’s surely been beaten to death, let’s talk about three main midfield men for the New York Red Bulls.
Rafa Marquez has turned up gimpy once again. If he doesn’t make it back before the playoffs, that means the former Mexican international will have played in 12 matches in 2012. That’s an absolutely horrid return on the DP dollar for the league’s most visible franchise.
(A bad return in terms of competition, that is; New York is presumably recouping some of the salary outlay in merchandise and exposure for the Red Bull parent brand throughout Mexico. Otherwise, why in the world would the man still be there?)
In his absence, Dax McCarty returned happily to the position in which he has excelled this year, a holding midfield role. He had been pushed out wide to the right when Marquez got back in the lineup two weeks ago.
Third man into this pile is Tim Cahill. How do McCarty and Cahill reckon they are doing as a tandem? Swimmingly, by the sound of it. This is what they had to say about things following last week’s comprehensive romp over Toronto (a 4-1 result).
What Cahill had to say:
With Dax playing with you, there’s a lot of energy between us. We want to win every ball, we want to clear every ball. We want to run and do other people’s jobs and our own jobs. I suppose it feels like the best combination at the moment or the team. It’s a nice partnership.”
And then what McCarty had to say:
I really enjoy playing with Tim in the middle. He hit the nail on the head. In this league, you play against some pretty athletic midfields, some pretty good midfields. Obviously, with our older guys, Rafa [Marquez], Teemu [Tainio], they’re our more experienced guys, their positioning is fantastic. Sometimes you need guys who can cover some ground in there. So with me, I just try to make sure we’re solid defensively and then I let our special players who can attack make magic and go forward.
In a word: telling.
(Of course, if you believe one very important man around Red Bull Arena, Thierry Henry, the club cannot win an MLS Cup without Marquez. So, there’s that.)
I suppose we should insert a fourth man into the conversation here: Tainio. Not so far back, Tainio was a valued midfielder. But the Finnish veteran is 32 now, and 2012 has been a rough go with injuries. When he’s on the field now the team’s speed (in thought and in quickness) through midfield falls.
Well, it falls compared to the McCarty-Cahill combo. With Marquez as a point of comparison, it’s probably a wash.
By the way, the piece linked above from Big Apple Soccer points out this little statistical gem: the Red Bulls are 0-4-3 when Tainio starts.