As the dust settles, a stand out emerges for the union

Richie Marquez was selected 44th overall in 2014 by the Union from the University of Redlands, and the only NCAA division 3 athlete in that year’s class of draftees. He was loaned to Harrisburg for the 2014 season where he saw a full 90 minutes in 28 games, led the league in minutes played (2,520), and helped guide the USL side to an appearance in the finals and a 4th round showing in the U.S. Open Cup. After a good year in the USL, Richie would get that fateful call on May 2 when a quad injury would see Lahoud sidelined and force Edu slide up to the mid to cover.

Richie put in a solid 85 minutes that day and managed a goal line save on a Giovinco effort, not bad for your first day at the MLS office. Philadelphia would go on to lose that game 1-0, however the lone goal from Giovinco came off a free kick (surprise!) and not during the run of play. Marquez would go on to play a total of 21 games in 2015 and solidify a starting role as the Union’s center back.

With all the musical chair ‘Mo’ments in the early days of the season, the accusation of Steven Vitoria, and the presence of Ethan White, it was unclear what the back line was going to look like week to week. One thing was made abundantly clear on that day in May; Marquez was something the Union need to build around. During the 2014 combine Richie ranked 2nd overall in the opta jump (20.5”) and 5th overall in the 30 meter sprint (3.96 seconds). Couple his athletic ability with a height of 6’2” and you have a center back that not only has the size to dominate the 6 yard box on aerial challenges, but the speed to close down on the ball very quickly. During his 21 appearances this season Richie was able to stand toe to toe with some of the league’s best forwards and midfielders while gathering valuable lessons learned along the way.

During a recent Twitter takeover I asked Richie what one aspect of his game he wanted to improve upon is, He responded with “I want to get better on the ball. I feel as a center back that’s an important skill to have.” If you look at his progression throughout the 2015 season you can see a marked improvement on the ball as he settled into his new role as a starting center back, and you can’t help but to be optimistic for what lies ahead for the 23 year old Marquez.

I also inquired as to who his ideal pairing was at center back. His answer was “Sergio Ramos.  I’ve looked up to him since I was young.” I don’t see the Union acquiring Sergio Ramos anytime soon; well perhaps if UNION HULK gets involved Jay Sugarman can be persuaded, but it’s nice to have dreams.

The off season always brings changes to clubs in MLS. This is shaping up to be the biggest offseason in the Union’s history, the dismissal of Nick Sakiewicz, The addition of a director of soccer in Earnie Stewart, and the launch of Bethlehem Steel F.C. all seem to signal the end of one era and the beginning of another. Some players will come and others will go before March is upon us once again but one thing is clear; Richie Marquez is here to stay.  Provided he never shaves his beard again.

Written by Steven Wilson: @ASonOfBen0699

Photo credit: Earl Gardner- Philly Soccer Page

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