When former New York Red Bulls Head Coach Hans Backe and General Manager Erik Soler saw the opportunity to swoop in the transfer window and pick up Tim Cahill, they didn’t bat an eye.
This, despite the fact that the team was deep enough in both the midfield and striker roles to do without his talents.
He scored one meek goal against the Portland Timbers in his third start as a Red Bull but struggled to find his place within the team. He remained goalless into April of the 2013 season. While his presence in the lockerroom was certainly respected, his lack of production left him open to criticism. That bubbling drought went beyond the fans and into mainstream media as former MLS striker Taylor Twellman publicly criticized the Everton great for his play since arriving stateside.
“Tim got criticized in the beginning,” Red Bull captain Thierry Henry noted. “Now what?”
Since the very public spat between player and commentator, Cahill has come alive to lead the team in goals and has become an invaluable part of the Red Bulls system.
“It’s always the same story,” Henry says. “You get recognized unfortunately in the game when you score goals. Not in a bad way; that’s the way it is. Sometimes people don’t see, you need a Dax (McCarty). You need a Kosuke (Kimura). You need a Jonny Steele. You need a Lloyd (Sam). I am not going to name the whole squad, but obviously, sometimes Tim, coming from Europe and not scoring goals, I said it so many times; if Tim had taken half of the chances he had all season, he would be top goalscorer ahead by ten goals. It seems every game he has two or three chances to score.
“Only thing he wasn’t doing in the beginning was putting it in the back of the net. He was creating them, always at the end of crosses, always there. Clearing, and at the end of it.”
Once a spotlight glared on his every movement, Cahill did what he has done his entire career; rise to the occasion. With two games left in the season, the Australian international has 10 goals on the season. His production, along with his once-ignored locker room acumen, has proven to be the most valuable asset the Red Bulls could have hoped for in what has been a roller coaster season.
That leadership was on display yet again in the waning minutes of the Red Bulls draw against New England this past weekend. With certain defeat staring New York in the face, it was Cahill who emerged to the forefront, sending an arching ball with full intent into the back of the net and booking the Red Bulls ticket to the postseason.
It was a poetic exclamation point to perhaps one of the league’s greatest comeback stories of the year.
“He embodies everything this team wants to be,” goalkeeper Luis Robles notes. From the character to just the hard work and he has had an incredible season.
“Without Tim, we wouldn’t be in the position that we are in,” he continues. “That’s why he’s an elite player, that’s why he has accomplished all that he has and we’re very, very, very grateful that he’s in our team.”
“I think Tim brings a lot more than goals,” Henry says. “He does bring the goals now, obviously, but he brings more than goals.”