UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The last time the New York Red Bulls faced the Los Angeles Galaxy in August, it was a memorable game for Rafa Márquez, who was making his home debut at Red Bull Arena. Just not for his play.
Márquez had just returned from Mexico City, where he had captained the Mexican National Team, on a two-day turnaround. Against the Galaxy, he made the gaff that led to an early Edson Buddle goal that ended up being the lone and deciding strike of the game.
This time, Márquez says, he’s more prepared.
“Now, it’s different,” Márquez told the media on Tuesday. “I’ve had more [fitness] work. I feel better now – I think I can help my team more.”
Two matches ago, the Mexican DP suffered a right ankle injury on a foul committed by Colorado’s Wells Thompson in the second half of New York’s 3-1 win. Though he played last Thursday night in the 2-2 draw at FC Dallas, it looked like he still felt the effects of the injury.
On Monday, he was limited to just fitness work before spending time with the trainers. Head coach Hans Backe said that Márquez was showing a touch of fatigue.
But the star midfielder fully participated in Tuesday’s training session, including not only fitness and agility work but also with the team for drills and small-sided games. He looked active and sharp, despite the tape wrap around his right ankle.
“I didn’t have any training before the game with Dallas," Márquez said. "Now I feel better."
Thursday’s match will also be an intriguing showdown at the Home Depot Center because, for just the second time in league history, the two teams will likely potentially combine to showcase four Designated Players (a fifth, Thierry Henry, will miss the game due to injury).
Los Angeles, of course, boast David Beckham, who is expected to play. The English international faced Márquez when the Galaxy midfielder was with Real Madrid and Márquez played for Barcelona.
Márquez called Beckham a “great player” but himself downplayed the significance of the match.
“That’s in the past,” Márquez said of the famed Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry. “Now we play for different teams.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012