CHESTER, Pa. — For all of his professional career, Richie Marquez has been a 6-foot-2, defense-first center back with no goals to his name.
On Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium, he played the offensive hero.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “I’m a defender and I don’t get to score often, so now I know what forwards feel like. It feels good.”
In the 90th minute of what felt like the host’s inevitable fourth straight draw, the game quickly turned when a foul and restart allowed Sebastien Le Toux a cross opportunity near the right sideline outside the box. The Frenchman placed a perfect right-footed cross that cleared the head of C.J. Sapong and went to Marquez, who impressively willed the ball into the goal for a 1-0 Union win over D.C. United (see game story).
“Surprisingly, we train like that,” Marquez said. “In our second sessions, we do some finishing like that, crossing and everyone gets a shot at it, so credit to coaches for that.”
Union manager Jim Curtin also gave his coaches credit for the pinch, stating getting the big defender to be more offensive-minded was a strategy the team has been pushing all season.
“Because he’s such a defense-minded guy, that initial ball comes in, and if it doesn’t go straight to one of our guys, he’s in retreat mode, defense-first mode and he’s running back,” Curtin said. “Mike Sorber, B.J. Callaghan mentioned to him to take a little risk and stay up there every once in a while. If you’re not in the box, you’re not going to score. Richie was committed to stay in the box and scores a pretty good goal.”
Curtin, a former center back, was happy Marquez was able to open his MLS goal account. Still, the manager would much rather his defenders go unnoticed.
“Richie is a great player, a young center back who is growing in confidence with the ball,” he said. “It’s nice to get a goal, but I do like it when it’s quiet and we’re not talking about the center backs.”
Following the emotional 1-0 win over his former club of seven years, Union forward Chris Pontius, who was acquired this offseason, played it cool. The emotions weren’t what he expected.
“It felt like a soccer game,” he said. “Once you get on the field, I was expecting it to be different but it actually wasn’t. I kept my emotions in check.”
So, if it felt like just another game, the win wouldn’t be any sweeter, right?
“I won’t say that, I won’t say that,” he said laughing. “Some wins are ugly, some wins are pretty and this was one of the uglier ones. But beating my former team is a bit sweet.”