Depending upon whom you ask, 2010’s influx of Designated Players is either the change that will legitimize MLS or the one that will destroy the parity inherent in the league. As the emblem of American soccer’s shifting landscape, DPs are burdened with a constant pressure to justify their salaries.
Rafa Marquez of the New York Red Bulls is one player who was forced to prove himself to the critics this weekend. After an awful performance against the Los Angeles Galaxy last week, in which his turnover led to Edson Buddle’s winner, some questions over the Mexican’s $5.5 million contract began to materialize among fans in New York.
Well, there may not be a better way to silence your doubters than to strike a ridiculous, swerving volley as Marquez did to open the scoring during a 4-1 victory for the Red Bulls. Instead of bemoaning the misfortunes of their franchise, Red Bull supporters are now plotting how far their star-studded squad will advance this season.
The DP Dissection will be a weekly column that’ll keep you up to date with how the most expensive players in MLS are performing. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened over the past few days.
Nery Castillo (Chicago Fire)
Started, played 45 minutes in 2-1 victory against New England Revolution, received a yellow card for unsporting behavior in the 38th minute.
Started, played 45 minutes in 4-3 defeat to the Houston Dynamo.
We’ll all have to wait for Castillo's form to arrive as evidenced by his combined 90 minutes during Chicago’s two matches this week. Carlos de los Cobos knows that he has talent in the Mexican, but the player’s correct position is more of a mystery. His conduct may need to be observed as well after a elbow thrownin the Revolution match went unnoticed by MLS.
Freddie Ljungberg (Chicago Fire)
Started, played 90 minutes in 2-1 victory against New England Revolution, assisted on Calen Carr’s winner in the 85th minute.
Started, played 90 minutes in 4-3 defeat against the Houston Dynamo, assisted Calen Carr's 55th minute goal and Wilman Conde’s 81st minute goal and received a yellow card in the 94th for a reckless tackle.
The Swede is proving that all he needed was a change in scenery to resurrect the form from the beginning of his stay with Seattle. Ljungberg had some contribution in every sequence that led to a Fire goal this week.
Branko Boskovic (D.C. United)
Started, played 65 minutes in 2-0 victory against the Philadelphia Union
Boskovic’s impact on the match won’t appear in the box score; yet, he was the creator behind Danny Allsopp’s brace. The Montenegrin midfielder dispossessed the Union to start a counter before sprinting half the field and “dummying” Allsopp perfectly through to score his second goal.
David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Was not on the bench against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Reports are that Beckham is rapidly healing from his torn Achilles tendon. Expect him to return sometime in the comings months.
Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Started, played 90 minutes in 1-0 loss against the San Jose Earthquakes
With Landon’s form dipping post-World Cup, the Los Angeles Galaxy have proven to be made up of mere mortals after all. The American international was dangerous as ever, yet couldn’t find an equalizer, partly due to Jon Busch’s performance, but also because of shoddy finishing.
Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls)
Started, played 90 minutes in 4-1 victory against Toronto FC, scored penalty goal in the 61st minute.
When referee Jair Marrufo called Nana Attakora’s handball in the Toronto penalty area, MSG announcer Shep Messing amusingly posed a question of who would be taking the penalty for the Red Bulls. There was never any doubt that Juan Pablo Angel would be the one stepping up to the spot. The Colombian striker powered his finish past Stefan Frei for his 12th goal of the season and assured a Red Bull victory in Canada.
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
Started, played 67 minutes in 4-1 victory against Toronto FC.
Henry, who put 226 goals away while in London with Arsenal, just can’t score at the moment. Although the Red Bulls’ victory will overshadow the forward’s finishing woes, the Frenchman had a perfect opportunity for his first goal as a Red Bull against Toronto. He collected a Joel Lindpere pass on the edge of Toronto’s area, but slipped on the slick turf and sent his shot well high of Stefan Frei’s goal.
Rafael Marquez (New York Red Bulls)
Started, played 74 minutes in 4-1 victory against Toronto FC, scored opener in the 35th minute, received a yellow card for a reckless tackle in the 37th, and served the freekick that led to Joseph Nane’s own goal in the 41st.
Rafa’s effect on the Red Bull win did not just end with his fantastic goal. His dead balls have been spectacular thus far and one dangerous free-kick led to Nane knocking the ball into his own net. Marquez is not bossing the midfield like some would have hoped just yet, but he’s making up for it in different ways.
Geovanni (San Jose Earthquakes)
Began on the bench, came in at the 74th minute in 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The latest designated player acquisition quickly went through the work permit process so that he could appear Saturday in one of SJ’s biggest matches since returning to the league. In his brief appearance, Geovanni revealed the touch and speed of thought that could make him huge for the Earthquakes.
Alvaro Fernandez (Seattle Sounders)
Started, played 65 minutes in 2-1 loss against C.D. Marathon of Honduras in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Although the waif-like Uruguayan commands the lowest Designated Player salary, Fernandez continued to demonstrate the poise and intelligence that may make him the best DP signing of them all. Not often does a South American international nearing his prime join MLS.
Blaise Nkufo (Seattle Sounders)
Started, played 68 minutes in 2-1 loss against C.D. Marathon of Honduras in the CONCACAF Champions League, assisted on Roger Levesque’s goal in the 17th minute.
Nkufo may diverge with his teammate in that his international career is coming to an end, but his assist on Seattle’s lone goal should alleviate any worries about his technique. The target-man perfectly cushioned the ball to Levesque with a soft back-heel pass.
Julian de Guzman (Toronto FC)
Started, played 90 minutes in 2-1 victory against Cruz Azul of Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Missed Toronto’s 4-1 loss against the New York Red Bulls due to yellow card accumulation.
De Guzman controlled the field and was one of the main cogs in the home upset of the 2009 Mexican Arpetura champions. His absence due to a caution picked up against RBNY in his last league match left the Reds without the midfield presence this weekend.
Mista (Toronto FC)
Started, played 67 minutes in 2-1 victory against Cruz Azul of Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League, scored game winner in 44th minute.
Started, played 45 minutes in 4-1 loss against the New York Red Bulls.
In his brief tenure with Toronto, Mista has shown that he is both talented and temperamental. His goal at the beginning of the week was an example of the former while the rumored dispute between Preki and him after an early substitution is one of the latter.
For wry non sequiturs follow Goal.com correspondent Avery Raimondo on Twitter @averyraimondo
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