Photo by Howard C.Smith/ISIphotos.com
BY MIKE NASTRI
The Red Bulls officially introduced Mexican national team star Rafael Marquez on Tuesday, making the team the first in MLS to boast three Designated Players.
Marquez signed a three and a half year deal with the Red Bulls, which he chose over a handful of top European clubs, including Juventus. He joins former Barcelona teammate Thierry Henry as recent marquee signings by a Red Bull team that was already enjoying a strong season under head coach Hans Backe.
"This isn't to finalize my career because I'm 31 years old," said Marquez. "I can still give a lot more. I come to fight, to be the best, to see my team be a champion. I don't come for a vacation. I'm coming to do my part to help my team become the champion of this league."
Marquez is expected to help stabilize an inconsistent midfield. Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe plans to use his newest weapon to control the pace of the game from a defensive midfield role. The Red Bulls coach saw him fill a similar role when he was an assistant coach with the Mexican National Team.
"He's the guy that can control and dictate the game from a center position," said Backe. "He wants the ball all the time. He used to play there and his distribution with short passes, long passes will help us enormously."
"He's a player who can play another few years at a high level and brings quality to the league, to our team," said Head of Red Bull Global Soccer Dietmar Beiersdorfer. "He can play in the middle of the field and he can distribute the balls, he can make the play faster. He can bring balance to our midfield. He's a guy that can integrate in the team. He works hard and he's a good fellow. We are convinced he will have a great impact on the pitch and in the locker room."
Despite these new additions of Marquez and Thierry Henry, Hans Backe and the rest of the Red Bulls organization maintains that the goal this year is to simply make the playoffs. That won't stop expectations from being raised and it won't stop the Red Bulls from being considered a title contender just a year after being the worst team in MLS.