Alexi Lalas MLS blog: Why madman Marquez would still have a place in my team

Welcome to MirrorFootball's new MLS blog, brought to you in conjunction with ESPN. Every week USA legend Alexi Lalas will be on hand to bring you the latest news from the States, and you'll also be able to watch the week's best goals and highlights...

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In the playoffs you want the stars to have an impact. The big names have to pack a punch if your team is going to get anywhere.

Well, the New York Red Bulls’ Rafael Marquez aims to please.

This weekend Marquez lost his mind – “se volvio loco”, to use the vernacular – following the Red Bulls’ 0-1 home playoff defeat to the LA Galaxy. After the final whistle the ex-Barca defender and current Mexico captain threw the ball at an opponent (Landon Donovan, to be precise), attempted a head butt, threw a haymaker and finally took a world-class dive – all within about 10 seconds.

It was actually quite impressive. For his efforts, of course, he was shown red and will now miss the midweek return leg in Los Angeles.

Now I could argue that, given his poor form and poorer attitude this season, Marquez actually did his team a favour.

But I’m here to defend Marquez. Kinda.

Here’s my take: there are no angels in sport. Players cheat. Players are dirty. Players are conniving. Players are deceptive. And anyone who thinks otherwise is either naive or blinded by loyalty to this club or that player.

Sure, there are varying degrees of dastardly deeds, but we're all tainted virtually from the moment we lace up the boots and commit our first foul. When it comes to competition, it's hard to find the saints among the sinners.

Marquez is a villain, to be sure, and he’s horrible at hiding it. He's going to take cheap shots and he's going to lose his composure. Why? Because he's Rafa Marquez! That's what he does.

And for the club, his impetuous outbursts are just the cost of doing business. His actions should be surprising to no one, least of all to the organization that hired him and are paying him obscene amounts of money.

The New York Red Bulls invited this upon themselves and should have been prepared to deal with it. They weren’t, and it has continually caused problems, on and off the field.

Still, I like Marquez. I’d have him in my team. Don’t get me wrong, I would have come to blows with him by now, but at least we would have worked it out. Teammates are like family that way: let things fester, and you’ll find yourself in psychoanalysis; confront them head on, and you’ll find yourself having a pint with your brother.

But the Red Bulls family has gone for the former. The inmates are running the asylum.

Now Marquez sits on the sidelines and New York sits on the verge of playoff elimination.

If the Red Bulls somehow pull off a miracle against the Galaxy on Thursday night, all will be forgiven.  But the villain will remain.

Alexi Lalas is a lead football analyst for ESPN - the live and exclusive broadcaster of Major League Soccer in the UK. Watch ESPN’s live coverage of the MLS Playoffs this week - Western Conference Semifinal 2nd Leg: Seattle Sounders v Real Salt Lake at 2am tonight.  Then a double bill on Thursday 3rd November at 12.30am - Eastern Conference Semifinal 2nd Leg: Houston Dynamo v Philadelphia Union, followed by Western Conference Semifinal 2nd Leg: LA Galaxy v New York Red Bulls at 3am. ESPN and ESPN America are the home of major sports from the US, including NBA, MLB, NFL Monday Night Football and NCAA US college sports. For details visit www.espn.co.uk/tv   

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