After two-and-a-half seasons, $14 million, two playoff red cards, and one trophy (if you count the Emirates Cup), Major League Soccer and the Red Bulls finally brought an end to the most successful campaign of sabotage in the history of Mexican soccer, and showed Rafael Marquez the door.
"Sabotage?" you ask. Yes, awkwardly forced rhetorical device, sabotage. Threatened by the rise of the United States as a soccer nation, the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) dispatched Rafa Marquez to do as much damage from inside the system as possible. The theory may sound crazy, but it's the only answer that makes sense.
Marquez's mission had three objectives. The first was to prevent the largest American population center and most influential media market, New York City, from having a successful soccer team. He did this by systematically destroying team chemistry on and off the field.
In 2011, after some typically damaging poor performances (a regular feature of his campaign of destruction), he went out of his way to insult his Red Bull teammates, and specifically second-year defender and promising U.S. international Tim Ream, saying, "I think I am playing at my maximum level, and doing everything I can. I don’t have, unfortunately, four defenders on my level that can help me out.
"Tim is still a young player with a lot to learn. He still has quite a lot to learn, and, well, he has committed errors that are very infantile and cost us goals.
"I think that this is a team game, and unfortunately, there isn’t an equal level between perhaps (Thierry Henry) and myself and our teammates."
Ream later fled to Bolton Wanderers, reportedly to be as far away from Marquez as possible.
Later that season, with the Red Bulls having made the playoffs in spite of his best efforts, Marquez got himself red carded after the first leg of his team's tie with the LA Galaxy. Having succeeded in ensuring the Red Bulls lost at home, he attempted to injure American superstar Landon Donovan by capitalizing on what U.S. Soccer authorities assumed to be a closely guarded secret: Donovan's weakness to soccer balls chucked at the back of his calf. The trauma from the incident haunts Donovan to this day, and is rumored to be the key factor in his recent flirtation with retirement.
Marquez then attempted to exploit another, slightly better-known vulnerability in an American player: Adam Cristman's weakness to getting punched in the face. Doctors have confirmed that this incident is entirely responsible for Cristman's atrocious performance in the 2011 MLS Cup final and subsequent retirement from the sport.
He carried on the red-card-to-ruin-New-York-and-also-the-attempted-injuring-of-American-players tactic to great success in the 2012 postseason, receiving his marching orders after sliding in late and two-footed on D.C. United's Chris Pontius, one of Major League Soccer's breakout stars in 2012. United went on to knock the Red Bulls out of the playoffs.
Marquez's second objective was to suck as much money out of the American soccer system as possible, so that it could not be used on established stars who could raise the league's profile and level of play or promising young American products. In this, he again succeeded, draining a reported $14 million from the MLS coffers.
The third objective was to simply take out America's nicest player. In addition to the lasting damage done to Donovan and Cristman and the attempted amputation of Pontius' legs, he tackled San Jose Earthquakes winger Shea Salinas, possibly the nicest human being in the league*, to the ground and kicked him in the neck as they went down, fracturing Salinas' clavicle. Another resounding success for Marquez.
So after 44 regular season appearances, millions of wasted dollars, and fewer cups than a women's locker room, Marquez returns home, a hero, having wrought extensive damage and leaving a trail of broken players and ruined lives in his wake.
*Shea Salinas is the super down to earth, prayer group-leading, charity-volunteering, woefully underpaid team player who represents the exact opposite of Rafael Marquez. EA Sports produced a FIFA 13 commercial featuring Salinas perving on a woman (played by his wife, Julie) with the funniest meta-joke being "it's so crazy to think of Shea Salinas doing something like this."