October 2011: Red Bulls win another crucial game without Marquez

Has Mexico captain Rafa Marquez played his last game at central defender for the New York Red Bulls?

If the Red Bulls' last two weeks are any indication, that might be the case.

Marquez was suspended for the club's last two victories, both shutouts. He served a one-match ban for yellow-card accumulation and missed New York’s 1-0 away win at FC Dallas on Sept. 17.

After mouthing off about his team and his teammates following their 3-1 midweek defeat to Real Salt Lake, the 32-year-old Marquez was suspended by Coach Hans Backe for Saturday’s 2-0 home victory over the Portland Timbers. Veteran journeyman Stephen Keel took Marquez’s place at central defender and acquitted himself well.

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The Mexican Rafa Marquez, former player of FC Barcelona, missed some matches of Red Bull New York. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

Backe wouldn't comment on who he might play in the club's next game at Toronto FC on Saturday, but he heaped a lot of praise on Keel.

“You need that kind of central defender in the MLS, who is cleaner, battles all the time, goes for headers and doesn’t give the strikers too much time to control the ball," Backe said. "If you look at the other team, you can see Portland’s type of center back, too - big and hard-working fighters.”

Backe added that he wouldn't count out switching Marquez to central midfield, where he stood out for the Red Bulls in 2010. Marquez, who is more skillful than a physical player, has endured a disappointing season for the Red Bulls and has had the fans on his case in recent matches.

After New York’s embarrassing home loss to RSL last Wednesday, Marquez criticized his defensive partner Tim Ream.

“Tim is still a young player with a lot to learn,” Marquez said. “He still has quite a lot to learn, and well, he has committed errors that are very infantile and cost us goals.”

But Marquez wasn't finished.

“I’m focusing on really performance at my highest level," he added. "That doesn’t mean that the whole back line can perform at that same level, so that’s a problem. I think this is a team game and unfortunately there isn’t an equal level between my teammates and I.”

Despite the team’s underachieving season (eight wins, seven losses and 15 ties), the Red Bulls are only three points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. In their victory over Portland, Luke Rodgers and Juan Agudelo found the back of the net. Against Salt Lake, tireless Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere scored after RSL rolled to a 3-0 halftime lead behind two Fabian Espindola goals and another from Alvaro Saborio.

Eastern Conference too tight to call

The Eastern Conference race, for first place and the playoffs, is a toss-up. Four points separate the top six teams in the conference with four games left to play in the regular season.

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"The Eastern Conference is crazy," said Red Bull striker Thierry Henry. "When you look at the table it is almost unreal.

"Philly and us were flying at one point. It looked like it was going to be between them and us. Suddenly we're fighting to get into the playoffs. Maybe in two weeks there's going to be another team on top. It's one of the first times you don't have an idea of who even is going to finish first."

The Houston Dynamo moved to the top of the Eastern Conference standings as Geoff Cameron’s fifth goal of the season lifted the visitors to a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas.

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Cameron #20 of the Houston Dynamo dribbles the ball against Jackson Goncalves #6 of FC Dallas. Cameron scored, Dynamo won 1-0. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sporting Kansas City, which had a goal from former Mexican international Omar Bravo in the 1-1 home draw with the Philadelphia Union, are a point back in second place. Sebastien LeToux scored the equalizer for the Union, which puts them a point ahead of the Red Bulls.

The Columbus Crew suffered a crushing 1-0 home defeat when Chad Barrett scored in the third minute of stoppage time for the LA Galaxy on Saturday. The loss leaves Columbus level on points with Houston, but third in the conference due to goal differential (-3 compared to the Dynamo’s +6).

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The Los Angeles Galaxy celebrate their 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew with teammate Chad Barrett #11. He scored the winning goal near the end of extra time. (Photo: Getty Images)


Canadian international midfielder Dwayne De Rosario continued his push toward league MVP honors with another amazing performance and his second hat-trick of the season in D.C. United’s 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake. De Rosario struck for the quickest hat-trick in league history, in the opening 31 minutes, en route to his third MLS Player of the Week honors. The Canadian attacker has 13 goals this season to put him on top of the scoring chart. He also assisted on the other goal by Honduran international Andy Najar. Saborio had RSL’s lone tally, his second of the week.

The win keeps DC a point behind the Red Bulls, who are in the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Two spots still open in the West

The LA Galaxy is one win away from securing the Supporters’ Shield, presented each year to the team with the best regular season record, and will be joined in the playoffs by Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake.

Colombian Fredy Montero struck for two second-half goals to lift Seattle to a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Brad Evans converted a penalty kick for the second-place Sounders, while Camilo Sanvezzo tallied for the Whitecaps.

Drew Moor’s third goal this season gave the host Colorado Rapids a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, who had a goal from Chris Wondolowski for his team-leading eleventh of the year. Colorado remain in the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot, but are now just four points behind Dallas and five points clear of Portland.

In other matches, former Colombian international Juan Pablo Angel scored twice for the second time in eight days as Chivas USA recorded a 3-0 home win over Toronto FC to remain in playoff contention. Justin Braun had the other goal for the Goats.

The Chicago Fire squeaked past the New England Revolution, 3-2, to also keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Fire grabbed a 3-0 lead behind Sebastian Grazzini, Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko before the Revolution rallied with late goals by Ryan Guy.