In the salary cap tied world of Major League Soccer, a team’s investment in Designated Players brings with it some lofty expectations.
Take Tim Cahill for instance. The Australian international brings with him a resume littered with goals and achievements. Whether lighting up the back of the net for Everton or playing the ambassador’s role for Australian football, Cahill certainly has little to prove to anyone. His career speaks for itself.
Still, his time with New York has been a quiet affair. He has scored a single goal over the course of 15 matches while battling fitness issues for the greater part of 2012. The lifelong striker has also traded his patch in the box for a two-way midfielders role which has kept him even further from the score sheet.
However early in the season, his goal drought continues to be noticed by the Red Bulls fanbase and media alike. That isn’t a concern for Cahill who insists his only focus is the team’s play.
“I don’t think I need a goal. I think who needs the goal is probably (the media),” Cahill said. “I need to play. It’s only been one game. It’s one game in the season. If we are going to get opportunities, I am going to get opportunities.
“I think in this league, the focus on DP’s, players from Europe, is so much because of money and because of so many circumstances,” he continued, “but I’ve enjoyed a career of being in the highlights and being in the top of the game as a goalscorer.” That particular refrain has been a favorite of fellow teammate and Designated Player Thierry Henry who has consistently pointed a finger at an American sporting culture which chooses to put a heightened emphasis on their team’s star players when the focus should always be on the team itself.
“With the Red Bulls, it’s not about me,” Cahill insisted. “It’s not about individuals. When it goes in, it goes in, but it’s not going to be different to any other goal.”
In his short time with New York, the Australian international has carved a niche for himself as a go to leader in the team’s clubhouse. However, finding his place within the lineup has been difficult. The transition from striker to a crowded midfield often left Cahill lost in the mix last season.
This year, Petke is introducing him further up in the attack, embedding the decorated striker beneath the team’s forwards. If the first half of Sunday’s match against Portland was any indication, it could be a role he excels in.
“It’s a great role when you are leading but it’s not when you try to stop them scoring because you have to fill those holes,” Cahill quipped. “But it’s a great role. I think (Fabian) Espindola did a fantastic job finishing off the pieces and us getting the ball up front and trying to get more involved, but overall I am pretty happy.
“I am happy overall with the team where it was six months ago and where it is now,” Cahill continued. “Football wise and team wise and staff wise, it’s a nice balance and now it’s only one game and it’s a game that’s away under difficult circumstances. It’s going to take time but overall it’s what we said from the start; if you want to try to build something and work with it, you’ve got to be wiling to take the chances to lose games and live by what you are trying to build and try to build that for the next months, years, whatever.
“It’s part of a long term plan, but overall, it’s something we are trying our hardest, especially in these conditions on the training pitch as much as we can and make it a complete team.”
Will that mean more goals are coming Cahill’s way?
“Internationally and domestically, I know I can score goals,” he said. “Finding your feet in a system and finding the way the team plays, whether we cross the ball lines or whether you get in the end of it, are the different things from playing away at Portland and nicking that elusive goal, but time will tell. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, then you guys will be unhappy for a bit longer and well see what happens.
“Anyone who knows who I am, I play for the team,” he declared. “Especially for a player like Espindola, getting his goals is fantastic, (Jamison) Olave …. As long as the team wins, then it doesn’t matter who scores. The main thing is you’ve got to give something to the team defensively or offensively. I think it’s really important.
“If (a goal) comes this week, let’s see what well be chatting about after the game. Who knows.”