June 19, 2015

Richie Marquez: D-III standout to MLS starter

By Phil Naegely

Former D-III standout, Richie Marquez, has established himself as a starter for MLS club Philadelphia Union.
(Photo: Philadelphia Union)

Richie Marquez’s road to Major League Soccer wasn’t a common one. Most MLS starters come from either MLS academies, Division I colleges and universities, or from overseas.

Marquez, on the other hand, played for Division III Redlands and despite being named a D3soccer.com All-American following his senior season, the Pomona, California native was unknown to most when he was selected as the No. 44 pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union. His college head coach Ralph Perez, the former Los Angeles Galaxy coach, helped get him an invite to the 2014 MLS Player Combine where his athleticism got him noticed. Complemented by solid game performances, the Union staff saw enough potential to take a chance on him.

Marquez survived the pre-season cuts and was offered a contract. After being loaned to Philadelphia’s USL affiliate, Harrisburg City Islanders, for most of the 2014 season, Marquez is finding success and impressing many in the first half of the 2015 MLS season.

Marquez was a 4-year starter for Redlands Bulldogs and was named a D3soccer.com All-American his senior year.
(Photo: Univ. of Redlands Sports Information)

“I took [being sent to Harrisburg] as a learning experience,” Richie Marquez described, “I remember telling myself I need to take the most out of my time in Harrisburg because they are sending me there for a reason.”

During his time with Harrisburg, Marquez not only started all 28 of the team’s matches en route to the USL PRO championship game, but was the league’s only player to be on the field for every second of the season. The 6'-2" centerback assisted on one goal and received just a single yellow card in 2520 minutes of action. It was a great opportunity to hone his skills at the next level as he prepared for one day finding his way into the Union’s game day roster.

“The loan to Harrisburg was the best thing that could have happened to me as it allowed me to ease into the jump in play between college and MLS,” Marquez said looking back on his 2014 season with Harrisburg.

Marquez battles for Harrisburg City Islanders in the 2014 USL PRO championship game versus Sacramento Republic.
(Photo: The Sacramento Bee)

However, the most memorable part of his season was off the field. Marquez was able to walk across the University of Redlands’s stage on graduation day to receive his diploma due to the fortunate timing of the City Islanders’ California road trip to face Orange County Blues and Sacramento Republic.

“It was extremely a blessing,” Marquez reflected on the opportunity to attend his college graduation after completing his final semester away from school. “My top priority was to always graduate first and get my education. For me to walk and be there with my family, especially my parents, was an important moment.”

So, in cap and gown, Marquez received his degree in Communicative Disorders on a sunny Saturday morning before catching a flight to Sacramento to rejoin his teammates for that evening’s game, a 2-1 victory for the visitors. Five months later, the No. 8-seeded City Islanders would be back in Sacramento for the league final, but couldn't repeat the result, losing 2-0 after consecutive upset wins on the road over No. 1-seeded Orlando City (now in MLS) and Richmond made them unlikely finalists.

Size and athleticism have helped Marquez stand his own at the next level in the MLS.
(Photo: Philadelphia Union)

This season for the Union, Marquez has featured in eight games, starting in seven of them. Marquez made his MLS debut in the team's tenth game when he was subbed on for an injured Steven Victoria five minutes into the match against Toronto F.C. His first defensive task with the Union was to mark Toronto F.C. and U.S. men's national team striker Jozy Altidore. In the 1-0 loss Marquez showed his defensive skill and impressed many including head coach Jim Curtin.

As a result, in the next game he made his first MLS start against the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road. In the Union’s 3-0 loss, Marquez received a questionable straight red card and missed the Union’s next match against D.C. United. Since serving his one-game suspension, Marquez came back ready to play and hungry to help the Union succeed on the pitch.

“It’s funny because I think it was my first [red] card ever,” Marquez stated as he reflected on the game against Vancouver, “I just took it as it came and didn’t think about the card too much. After the card, I felt like I had to work harder for not only the team, but also myself.”

Marquez in action verus Toronto F.C. in his MLS debut.
(Photo: Philadelphia Union)

His great play on the field isn’t surprising to Marquez as his teammates have helped him improve all season.

“My teammates are always pushing me—physically and mentally—and guiding me on the field,” Marquez noted. “There are great mentors on the team. Mo [Maurice Edu], Sheanon [Williams], Stephen [Victoria], Ray [Gaddis], Fabinho, and Fred are always helping me out. I listen to them as they’ve been here [with the Union and in MLS] longer than me. A lot of my success is because of them.”

During the preseason, the Union’s center back pairing was one of the question marks. Now, midway through the season, it appears that Curtin has found an answer with Marquez and Edu pairing up. Their chemistry has helped the Union secure three shutouts in their last five league games. Marquez and Edu were also key as the Union advanced past the Rochester Rhinos in the fourth round of the US Open Cup in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play.

“I think Mo is such a good player that anyone can click with him,” Marquez said praising his fellow defender. “He is so talented and a great leader that makes me feel comfortable and want to do my job well. His personality makes me want to do my best on the field.”

Marquez has started six straight games for the Union and has formed a good partnership with Maurice Edu in central defense.
(Photo: Philadelphia Union)

Union fans have taken notice and largely seem to support Jim Curtin's decision to start the unheralded Marquez. They see room for improvement, but most believe he has earned his climb up the depth chart from unused substitute to regular starter this season.

As the 2015 MLS season progresses and the Union look to make a deep U.S. Open Cup run for a second straight season, the partnership of Edu and Marquez will continue to be called upon as Victoria’s injury recovery is on going. On Saturday, Marquez once again gets to play in front of family and friends as the Union will visit Robbie Keane and the Los Angeles Galaxy before returning home to face another dangerous offensive-minded side in the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday.

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