Tim Cahill has endured a frustrating 2014 season with the New York Red Bulls, with things coming to a head over the past week.
While Tim Cahill might be one of the most recognisable names in MLS, the former Everton midfielder’s status with the New York Red Bulls looks to be in some doubt.
Arriving from Everton in the summer of 2012, Cahill got over a slow start to life in the States to put together an MVP-calibre campaign in his first full season, scoring 11 goals in 27 regular-season games to help the club claim their first-ever major piece of silverware in winning the 2013 Supporters’ Shield.
This term, however, has been a testing one, with the Australian struggling with injuries during the first-half of the season and the demands of juggling international football with his club commitments.
Those factors, combined with the surprise emergence of league-leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, have seen head coach Mike Petke hand Cahill a reduced role in attack upon returning from the World Cup, but he has been unable to adapt to the recent tactical shift due to his contact absences.
Things then seemed to reach a crisis point this past week when, just 24 hours after reiterating his commitment to his national team, the Socceroos star found himself dropped to the bench ahead of Saturday’s crucial home matchup with the Houston Dynamo, prompting a heated training ground outburst.
Immediately after a Thursday morning session ended, a clearly upset Cahill was the first player to walk off the field with sporting director Andy Roxburgh in tow trying to calm him down.
‘I come here to train. I’m wasting my [expletive] time,’ Soccerbyives.net reported him uttering.
Cahill then spoke to reporters afterwards, having calmed down somewhat, but his reaction was still a telling one.
‘At the end of the day, everything that we did last year, I was involved in everything,' he said.
‘We got a Supporters’ Shield, we won the first trophy here in 18 years, and now things are changed up. If that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be.
‘My mental focus is for the team and not for myself individually. … If I don’t play here, if I don’t play tomorrow because of international duty, then I will play Qatar and [United Arab Emirates]. If I come back and I don’t play again, then I will address the situation.
‘I don’t pick the formation, I don’t pick the team. All I know is that last year when I was playing, we seemed to do okay.’
Cahill was eventually introduced in the 85th minute of the 1-0 victory over Houston, but received a straight red card just three minutes later for a tackle on the Dynamo’s Boniek Garcia to further highlight his plight.
Now set to miss the next two games due to his Australian commitments and suspension, Petke insisted, however, that recent events have been blown out of proportion by the media.
‘The only thing I’ll say is that the last 24 hours have been very interesting,’ he said. ‘To suggest that a player was not in the lineup because of an international call-up is both ridiculous and laughable. We have four games left, three now, that are huge.
‘The steam that this picked up in the last 24 hours has been, to me, ridiculous. I put the selection process, as the coach, which, last time I checked, I make the decisions and I’m allowed to make the decisions, the selection process for tonight’s game went as this: I want to put the eleven players out that I thought would get us a result and we got the result.’
Nevertheless, with the current central-midfield partnership of Dax McCarty and Eric Alexander producing solid results, Cahill’s chances of claiming regular minutes for the rest of 2014 appear bleak, and questions surrounding his long-term future with the club have to be raised.
Cahill proved this summer at the World Cup that he can still play at a very high level but, after outshining captain Thierry Henry last season, the Designated Player finds himself merely a bit-part piece in the current Red Bulls’ playoff push.
While the potential winter departure of Henry may open up more opportunities for him next year, the club’s rumoured budget downsizing could mean officials are more than willing to get his annual salary of $3.63 million off the books.
Where Cahill would go remains to be see but, given his impressive displays in Brazil this summer, there certainly won’t be a lack of suitors, with a Premier League return no doubt a possibility for the man who starred at Goodison Park for eight seasons.