CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What initially began as an way to keep Rafa Márquez from suffering a serious injury ended up being a move that cost the Mexico captain his starting spot on the national team.
The two spots Márquez typically mans — those of central defender or holding midfielder — are currently occupied by Héctor Moreno and Israel Castro, leaving the veteran with no place to fill but that of a substitute.
To the New York Red Bulls star, he’s simply following the orders of Mexico manager José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre.
"[Whether I start or not is] up to Chepo to decide,” said Márquez following El Tri’s Tuesday morning training session on ahead of their second Gold Cup match here on Thursday. “We have to work hard as a group to win the title. That’s it."
Originally, de la Torre’s idea to keep Márquez on the bench was simply to protect his player from further aggravating an injury he had suffered during MLS play with New York a few weeks prior.
When Márquez joined Mexico’s training camp in Seattle for their two warm-up matches against Ecuador and New Zealand ahead of the Gold Cup, he was bothered by a pulled groin and was unable to participate in either friendly.
Márquez underwent an intense recuperation regimen to accelerate his return to El Tri’s starting XI. Nevertheless, de la Torre opted to keep him on the bench for their opening Gold Cup match against El Salvador, using him as a 69th-minute sub for Giovani dos Santos instead.
According to Márquez, even though he has recovered from the knock, his head coach is just being cautious.
“He told me that he didn’t want to risk it still, that there are more important games coming up, so I’m just obeying his orders,” Márquez said following Mexico’s 5-0 rout of El Salvador on Sunday. “I just follow his orders … and do the best I can in whatever role I’m used.”
With backup right back Ricardo Osorio out of Mexico’s Gold Cup squad after coming down with an illness, de la Torre could make some changes to the starting lineup against Cuba on Thursday, which could see Márquez back on the field from the onset.
“For me, it’s not a problem [to play right back],” Márquez said. “I know the position well and I’ve played it, so now it’s just up to the coach.”