The Australian standout battled jetlag and fatigue en route to a Man of the Match performance Saturday night, pushing the Red Bulls midfield forward in dismantling Kansas City during this weekend’s 0-0 draw. Though he failed to find the scorecard, Cahill continued to demonstrate his vital role as a leader on this side both on and off the pitch.
“I don’t play for plaudits,” Cahill noted. “I play to try to do well for my team. It’s always nice (to be named man of the match) and I think for me to go and go again is tiring especially after the long flight from Qatar with the ten days that I’ve had but you keep backing yourself up and putting in performances.
“But these young lads look up to me to lead the line,” he continued, “and lead from the front and if they see me coming back from a long trip, working hard, training hard, not missing and training, not missing any minutes on the pitch, that will inspire them to be better and work harder. Ten days training, no game, leave everything on the pitch and that’s what we do.”
His leadership was sorely needed against a Sporting KC side which has decisively taken their first two encounters, both home and away. To make matters all the more complicated, Dax McCarty featured on the team’s left wing side, forcing yet another midfield front to adjust on the fly while taking on one of the league’s best attacking teams.
Cahill’s ability to push back on offense and contribute defensively allowed New York the room needed to own possession and the better part of the action. Therein, the Red Bulls Designated Player has found his niche with his new team.
“I think for me my role is to be a leader. End of,” he said. “Work hard, defend first and attack later. I put myself in the box as many times but I think I was just as much in the out box as well. Whether it’s defending or attacking, I told you we are come good at a good time. It’s all about us now, what we are doing and I am just happy with the team that we can come off and have a complete performance and clinch a playoff spot tonight.”
The playoffs will be a new experience for a man who has seemingly encountered it all in his 14 year career. “I don’t have a clue!” he exclaimed. “Finish fourth, fifth, third – whatever. I think for us you got to play what you got to play.”
“I said to the lads ‘this is the beautiful thing about football.’ Play less games or more, I prefer to play football all year round. As long as we got that appetite and everyone is having that same buzz, that buzz that we feel now, we take it into training and take it into next week.
“That is what this team needs. That’s what I am here for; I am here to help build momentum here to make sure that we believe in ourselves. Performances like that can happen if we really work hard.”