Monday NY Gaffer: The real Rafa Márquez
All of a sudden, a Red Bulls team that failed to win away from home last year now has four road wins on the season after a 4-1 drubbing of Toronto. New York's win handed their hosts their first home loss of the season, and it also created some serious separation in the Eastern Conference as the second-place Red Bulls now have an eight-point lead over third-place Toronto.
Four things to take from Saturday’s emphatic win:
1. This is the real Rafa – Rafa Márquez was prominent in New York's first two goals, blasting in a swerving shot from 25 yards out then sending in a precise free kick that Toronto knocked into their own net. He's just a week removed from his home debut last Saturday, a real clunker in which he carelessly gave away the ball that set up the game’s lone goal.
“Rafa today was outstanding,” Juan Pablo Angel said. “The goal was one of his trademarks.”
Much like Brazilian international Carlos Alberto elevated the play of the Cosmos when he signed in 1977, Márquez can solidify this midfield and those around him. A brilliant performance from the Red Bulls' third DP.
2. This Henry guy – No goals now through five league games for Thierry Henry, perhaps a testament to the quality and caliber of MLS as much as to his need to get fit and into form. Henry could have bagged one or two goals against Toronto, but Stefan Frei's good goalkeepering denied him. His deft touches and movement into space are a positive for the team's attack as he constantly carried at least one Toronto defender, and often another shadow, with his movements.
3. Kudos for Carl – When asked last week if he was excited about his return to Toronto, Carl Robinson told MLSsoccer.com that he was looking forward to it, “But it isn’t a revenge match,” the Welsh midfielder said.
Robinson was traded before the start of the season after having a fallout with management, and the player—twice named TFC's MVP—was a fan favorite at BMO Field. He was greeted with a standing ovation by the crowd and a serenade from the supporters. In a bit of irony, the once-jilted player who bled Toronto FC colors scored on his return.
Rather than celebrate, Robinson looked shocked and quietly stood there as his teammates mobbed him.
“Someone asked me the other day what I would do if I scored, and I said I wouldn’t celebrate,” Robinson said post-match. “The only reason was out of respect for the time I had here. It was three great years, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Classy act by a classy player.
4. Playoff picture – All season long, the Red Bulls have been talking about getting 40 points, and that would be good enough for the playoffs. Sitting six points shy of that mark and firmly entrenched in second place, New York look set for a post-season return and are perhaps rounding into form at the right time.
“We can see as the season goes on we get stronger and stronger, and I’m sure we’ll be in good shape if we get to make the playoffs,” Ángel said.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012