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Could Rafa Find a Home with Chivas USA?

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HARRISON NJ - OCTOBER 21:  Could I interest you... (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
HARRISON NJ - OCTOBER 21: Could I interest you... (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
Getty Images for New York Red Bu

Times have not been good recently for Rafael Marquez. The New York Red Bulls defender, one of the designated players upon which the club's championship aspirations were built, has had rough sledding for much of his tenure, but it has gone from bad to worse recently, when he seemed to call out his teammates, particularly Tim Ream, for making mistakes. That led to a suspension for Marquez by the club, probably less for speaking up than for being kind of wrong about his assertion that he is not the problem. With few exceptions, everyone is the problem this season for the Red Bulls, as their can't miss Supporters Shield campaign has been dead for months. Certainly Marquez himself looks uninterested and/or washed up since he's joined the Red Bulls, and many fans of the club believe he's saved his best performances for the Mexican National Team rather than the Red Bulls.

The negative attention surrounding Marquez lately has led to at least one writer for the SB Nation NYRB blog Once A Metro to label it "Marquezageddon 2011" but an article I recently saw got me thinking about the possibility New York could be trying to shop Marquez within the league, and a contention that Chivas USA could be one of the only reasonable destinations for him in MLS. Setting aside whether or not this is plausible for a moment, let's take a look and see the pros and cons of the Goats picking up Marquez.

Pros

If it's working with JPA...You will recall that Chivas obtained Juan Pablo Angel, formerly of the Red Bulls, from the Galaxy at the end of the transfer window in order to make room for Robbie Keane. JPA's been on a roll the last few games with Chivas, but Chivas' fans had every right to see him as a walking disaster when looking at his performances the last year and a half. Angel claims he feels invigorated following his move to Chivas, and perhaps there is something magical that could similarly rejuvenate Marquez. Given the possibility that Chivas would have to pay far more of Marquez's salary, he would absolutely need to be rejuvenated to justify the price tag.

Marketing tool/Cultural connection: Marquez was signed by NYRB because he was leaving Barcelona, had proven to be perhaps the best player of his generation from Mexico, and because it was hoped he could help attract Mexican and Mexican American fans from the tri-state region to the club. By all accounts, it has not worked. One of the issues, I think, is a rather naive assumption on the part of MLS personnel that Mexican-heritage fans are dying to root for a team, if only one of their own was playing for one. Seeing the massive attendance of Mexican National Team games played in the United States, I think the expectation is that Mexican fans only need to see a Mexican playing to be inspired to attend matches in MLS.

You cannot make such an assumption for Chivas USA, either, despite it's reputation around the league as "The Mexican Team." But Los Angeles has a large Mexican-heritage population, larger and with longer historical ties than the one in New York City, and Chivas does have a pretty large Latino fanbase. Certainly, this could be significant for the club's marketing efforts, as Marquez would be easily recognized by a large section of the population (something that is not necessarily true in New York), and Marquez could perhaps find living in Los Angeles to be more amenable.

Cons

Would Chivas ever do this? I think this is the operative question. Again, if the scenario with JPA happened once, it could certainly happen again. But unless New York wanted to get rid of him at any cost but still somehow keep him in the league, the team that picked him up would likely have to pay all or most of his salary. In contrast, Chivas are basically renting JPA for less than one-third of their season, and the Galaxy are going for broke this season. They are more inclined to pay for a player not on their team if it means they win a title. And given Chivas' inclination to keep the payroll super-cheap, I find it unlikely, though not impossible, that Marquez would come to the team. It's far more likely that he would return to Mexico if the Red Bulls want him gone.

He seriously looks washed up: Again, I thought this about JPA, and he's been on a tear lately, but Marquez does not look good anymore. That, combined with an apparent arrogance, is a terrible combination. I would venture that in some respects, he would be an improvement on some of the defenders currently playing for the Goats, but speed was never a major skill for him, and it certainly isn't now. Speed is one of the biggest problems for Chivas' defense this season, so that would not be addressed by obtaining Marquez.

Is Marquez beloved? I follow the Mexican National Team pretty closely, although I would not call myself an expert. Even if we set aside the (probably wrong) assumption that Marquez is a marketable MLS star, I get the feeling like fans of the Mexican National Team respect Marquez, but they're also over him. In 2006? He was the captain, the talisman of the team. By 2010? His time with Barcelona was up and it seemed his ship was sailing with the National Team too. With a generation of Mexican players who have the potential to take the national team to heights it has never reached, Marquez looks more and more like a man of a bygone era.

Now, would Chivas USA fans embrace Marquez if he joined the team? Probably. But I don't think he produces the same feelings that many other players would. And if he can't stand the talent level of the Red Bulls, he would probably throw fits every week on the pitch with Chivas like Benny Feilhaber does in New England. Still, it just might be crazy enough to work...

 

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