Country First: Red Bulls’ Cahill will join Australia for September friendlies

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

New York Red Bulls talisman Tim Cahill has steadily drawn comparisons between the growth of soccer in America and the rise of the game in his native Australia. He has also made no bones about furthering his international career with his choice to play in MLS, particularly to fulfill his role as the face of Australian soccer.

At 34-years-old, and with another World Cup in the books, one might believe Cahill would choose to further his club career instead of continuing with the Socceroos. After all, what are the chances he is in their plans for the 2018 World Cup?

However, as Australia’s brightest footballing star, choosing country over club this September for a pair of friendlies against Belgium and Saudi Arabia remain the logical choices for Cahill.

“I feel that what we did at the World Cup was really good but overall, it’s now the momentum of lifting a piece of silverware in your own country in a major competition,” Cahill explained. “The steps start now and if you pick and choose, as an athlete that you don’t want to play against Belgium or Saudi Arabia, or whoever it may be, it’s detrimental to what the country’s trying to do and it’s the same for any American international player.

“You have to play for your country, you’re representing your club, and it’s a massive honor at the same time.”

The friendlies aren’t completely meaningless. Socceroos’ boss Ange Postecoglou has called in a mix of veterans and newcomers to measure his roster for the coming Asian Cup — a tournament which will be hosted in Australia next year.

“This is going to be a strong squad. The players that [Australia national team manager Ange Postecoglou’s] bringing in are from top-caliber teams and are proven, internationally maybe not, but when I saw the squad last night, I was really impressed,” Cahill noted. “For players like Terry Antonis, I’ve known him ever since he was a baby and to be playing alongside him is fantastic, and Trent Sainsbury and Chris Herd from [Aston] Villa and all that sort of stuff. There [are] a lot of new faces but, overall, some A-League talent but proven talent. Now it’s whether they can prove themselves in the next two games and we can get the right result and be in that professional environment to help each other do well.”

Like with the Red Bulls, Cahill feels a duty to help nurture the next generation of Australian stars — even if it means leaving his club during a time of need. “Yeah, for me, you know, my obligation is to New York Red Bull, first of all,” he explains.

That, of course, comes with a noticable caveat.

“When I first signed here, I told them of my ambition to play for the national team,” he said. “I feel that being in that environment helps me mentally and physically as a footballer and keeps my football at the highest standard and still testing myself, but also nurturing and bringing through the players.”

The Red Bulls are already looking at a congested schedule, facing a match every three to four days over the next six weeks. Their regular season achievements to this point have left them on the edge of playoff qualification, and CONCACAF Champions League will stretch them across two fronts. Cahill would miss a September 6th match against Sporting K.C., but may also be questionable for a September 10th encounter against D.C. United. Both are conference rivals. Both are also conference leaders.

It’s a risk Cahill takes, but one he believes his teammates can handle.

“I feel that, yeah, it’s a massive disappointment if I’m going to miss the Kansas City game but, overall, we’ve got some depth in this squad and it puts some responsibility on the boys to hold up the shop until we can get all back together again,” he said. “Look what three games at the World Cup did for [DeAndre] Yedlin. It speaks volumes. I encourage international football because it makes your league better and it makes the standard better. Every other league in the world has an international window. It’s just unfortunate that here it’s different. That was one of the biggest things when I signed, I said, ‘listen, I have to play international football if I’m going to come and play here’. They agreed and it was fine.”

  • NYsoccerfan

    This seems absurd. Red Bulls are now coming into the most critical time of the season and one of the top players in the league decides to ditch his club for some friendlies om the other side of the world. Sounds like he is halfway towards returning to Australia.

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