New York Red Bulls Designated Player Tim Cahill had his strongest outing since joining the club against Toronto. What made it all the more surprising is he did it without star midfield teammates Dax McCarty and Brazilian playmaker Juninho by his side.
But is it that surprising? EOS has highlighted the glut at central midfield and how these injuries and suspensions could possibly work in the team’s favor.
While McCarty is expected to be out for another ten days, Juninho is set to return to the club this week and that means another game for head coach Mike Petke to juggle a midfield that is rich in options.
“Juninho is a very experienced guy. He knows football,” Tim Cahill said. Of course, the DP also realizes playing alongside the veteran midfielder also means a change of style for himself and the team.
“I know probably he will have to go to the ball more, come deep to receive it where as I’d come back to look for other spaces and fill other holes,” he said. “On the road, it’s going to have to be a disciplined performance all the same.”
“All of them have the quality to be in there,” Petke said. “We are in a situation that Juninho has come back and Dax is out. Juninho with the ball at his feet is something we like.”
Still, he admits that does not mean he will automatically get the start. “We haven’t made decisions who is starting this weekend because we also like the pair of Eric (Alexander) and Tim.
“Whoever is in there have to know both can not go no matter that both are offensive minded,” he continued. “Doesn’t matter. There has to be one guy anchoring in front of the net. It doesn’t matter who it is at the end. It’s the way we are playing.”
Alexander has become a favorite amongst teammates and the coaching staff in his early days with the team. However, it is Juninho who holds the most promise – especially if he gains the form that has made him an indispensable part of the man World Class teams he has captained.
Juninho is excited to be back in the mix but admits any time off for a man of his age is not good for his development or adjustment in this league. “It always hurts a little at 38 [years old],” he said through his translator. “I’ve played five games in a row. To stop playing and having to go back into form, that’s the part that hurts the most, getting out of that game-shape and form to a certain extent, but I’m very excited to be able to be fit again and be able to help again.”
He isn’t the only one that is pleased with his return. “Playing with Juni will be natural,” Cahill said. “He is a good footballer and has a good footballing brain. Just adapting. He is a world class player so it should be quite easy.”
For team captain Thierry Henry, Juninho’s addition is a plus, but irrelevant to the club’s overall strategy. He points towards last year at this time when he was missing from the club and how the team coalesced to tie a franchise record with five consecutive wins.
His message? The sum is greater than the parts.
“Having Juninho back is amazing and we are waiting for Dax to come back too. You want everyone to be healthy right? To compete,” he said. “(But) It doesn’t matter to me who does play; you have to be able to compete. That’s what we are doing at the moment a bit better.”