Richie Marquez has defied the odds. In a league full of Generation Adidas athletes and international players making their way to MLS, a center back from a Division III school in California was an afterthought for most coaches in the league.
Marquez was skeptical about continuing his career after high school. The California native did not receive an offer from and Division I program. Instead he was offered by the University of Redlands of Division III and Marquez admits he had his doubts.
“I wasn't sure if I wanted to play anymore because at that time in my life all of the D1 schools passed me by and I thought I didn’t want to play D3,” Marquez said. “This is not what I wanted, but I went and took a recruiting trip anyways and what sold it to me was the coach Ralph Perez.”
Marquez wasted little time making his mark at the collegiate level. He solidified himself on the backline starting in all 18 matches as a freshman, helping his club win their 10th conference title. As a sophomore he helped Redlands reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament and a No. 12 ranking.
The center back appeared in 79 matches which is fifth all-time in program history. In 2014 he was selected 44th overall in the MLS SuperDraft by Philadelphia. He was the only Division III player to be selected in the 2014 draft. After he was drafted by the Union he was loaned to Harrisburg City in 2014. Marquez emphasized how crucial his first year in Harrisburg was for his development as a player.
“I was the only D3 player to get drafted that year and my first year I was able to transition into the league by going on loan to Harrisburg,” Marquez said. “I got a lot of minutes there and we went to the final that year. We lost, but it allowed me to transition into the MLS, because it's definitely a different type of speed and a totally stronger game.”
His first MLS appearance came on May 2, 2015 when he came on as an injury replacement against a star-studded Toronto attack. Despite the firepower that opposed him, Marquez held Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to just one goal. Once Marquez got on the pitch he stayed there, appearing in 20 of the Union’s final 24 matches.
This season Marquez has been an anchor for a defense that has been the best in the Eastern Conference. He is considered a grizzly veteran on the backline compared to Keegan Rosenberry and Josh Yaro, both of whom were selected in the first round of the 2016 draft. Their defense has given up 11 goals through 12 weeks, which is the least amount in the Eastern Conference.
Just over a year since his first appearance, Marquez had another memorable first. This past Friday against D.C. United Marquez put his team at the top of table with a game-winning goal in the 91st minute. His first MLS goal couldn’t have come at a better time and after the match Marquez was at a loss for words when asked about scoring his first goal.
“It’s a good feeling,” Marquez said. “I don’t score goals often, so it feels good.”
Marquez is the perfect example of a player who continues to grind it out to live out his dream. It is a testament for younger soccer players who are having doubts about where they stand. As a senior in high school, Marquez was seriously considering hanging up his cleats for good. Now he’s been named to MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week and scoring game-winning goals on national television.