|Rafa Marquez loves himself. A lot.|
Here are a few high points.
The Philadelphia Union
Philly skulked into the offseason with a mountain of questions, and The Hack has done his best to provide reliable answers. By securing the return of Sebastien Le Toux, Philly not only added a historically dominant MLS forward, but they added a glue guy with the ability to bring synergy to the locker room and a recklessly benevolent attitude to the City of Bro Love. Le Toux did not belong in New York. He was not a tactical fit on the right wing and the Red Bulls didn't need him up top consistently enough to make the partnership viable. But would he have meant as much to any team other than Philly? Don't think so. The Union didn't have a reliable triggerman up top last year, and Le Toux will provide that. In spades, most likely.
And then you have Philly's back line, which was good last year despite encountering some injury issues. That, along with Peter Nowak's needless bloodletting, forced Philly to move Amobi Okugo back to central defense and away from his natural defensive midfielder position to bandage up the gashes. I don't think any of us expected Okugo to play as well as he did there. Indeed, he convinced me (and sufficiently muddled the picture for everyone else who doesn't agree) that despite his protestations Okugo's best position might actually be at the back.
Into this snowstorm steps Jeff Parke, who Philly acquired from Seattle late last week. Parke is coming off a quietly outstanding season, and Sigi made it seem as though Parke's move had as much to do with his desire to return to Philly than it did about Seattle's desire to keep him (which was, it must be said, rather high). Parke crowds a center back line that also includes regulars Carlos Valdes and the enormously tall Bakary Soumare, not to mention the possibility of using Okugo there.
The easy thing to do here is to move Okugo back up the park and use either Soumare or Valdes (gasp) as trade bait for a heavier need. But there are some interesting things to account for here. Valdes' value being what it is, does Philly package him for an attacking midfielder perhaps? Or do they try and shuffle the deck at the back and, like Okugo last year, bet on a player moving to acclimate to a new spot? You heard Hackworth talk about this all week, though, and that's flexibility. Parke's signing not only ensures Philly's defensive virility now. It also gives them a strong tactical backbone from which to build on. The one thing you can say for certain: Philly's gotten better already and it's barely December.
Rafa is gone-zo
Oh happy day, Christmas has come early. After three cranky, tiresome and just generally blech years, it appears Rafa Marquez is leaving MLS.
I don't detest Marquez as a person as I've never met him (though I'd imagine we'd have our, ahem, differences), but I loathe him as a footballer. He is rash, hilariously vain, arrogant, needlessly temperamental... need I go on? He is not misunderstood. He is a soccer cancer and he must be cut out to save the body. So discovered MLS as a collective, once and for all, on this day in 2012.
As much as you can point to his days in Catalonia for proof as to why he was once one of the world's preeminent defenders, I can point to even more examples in MLS of times when his soccer IQ looked terrible. That thing that really good soccer players can always lean back on even when they've hit an icy patch of form? That thing? Marquez looked like he jettisoned it out of his ass somewhere over the Atlantic. If Backe deployed Marquez in a holding midfield role, as he's done on more than one occasion, Marquez's heat maps looked like a confused winger who thought he was a box-to-box central midfielder who also thought he was a blind goat. He succumbed to the disease that wracked Beckham before he so arduously swallowed his pride last year and kicked the idea that doing everything at once was somehow a good idea.
No, Marquez loved himself (and the idea of himself) far too much to let reason and intelligence intervene on what he clearly thought was his mission to BE MARQUEZ. I'm not alone in my assessment that NYRB were quite a bit better when Marquez didn't play, being that they were unbound by his selfish machinations and his inability to play up to the standard he'd set. I don't mean to say here that Marquez is a terrible soccer player, because that's clearly not the case. In his heyday you'd have been hard pressed to find a better central defender, and even now he's capable of grafting some of his former magic onto the sullen body of work he's carved out in New York. The problem here is not that Marquez is terrible by any standard, but rather that he is subpar by his own. Marquez is the antithesis of MLS — lazy, entitled, undisciplined, too reliant on natural ability. He will not be missed. There's no reason he should have been as translucent as he was during his tenure in MLS. And now he's gone. Adios.
The College Cup
I tuned in yesterday for the final between Georgetown and Indiana, and I'm glad I did (Indiana won its eighth title with a 1-0 win over the Hoyas). I caught a couple names to remember for the draft coming up here rather shortly, and one of those — IU's central defender Caleb Konstanski — is profiled by Daniel Robertson here, among a few others. If Konstanski was the most impressive player I saw — and make no mistake, he has MLS written all over him — GU's creative hub Steve Neumann was a close second. Neumann scored a hat trick against Maryland to send Georgetown to the final, and it was the first three-goal performance by a player in the College Cup in nearly 20 years. Very impressive player who recently told Travis Clark he's staying at Georgetown another year. He's already blowing up MLS radars for the 2014 draft.
Redknapp to the rescue
'Ol 'Arry seems to be a fan of MLS. Or, at the very least, he likes a few of its players. #growthegame
- Will Parchman