Tim Cahill finally strikes for New York Red Bulls, leaves doubters in the dust

Since joining the New York Red Bulls as a Designated Player last summer, Tim Cahill has received a bevy of criticism and had to answer dozens upon dozens of questions about his lack of goal scoring for the club.

There will be none of that this week.

Cahill helped the Red Bulls in a big way on Saturday, lifting the club to a 2-1 road win over Toronto FC at BMO Field with a brace that included a vintage header near the end of regulation.

The win was the third in the past four matches for New York (4-4-2) and their second straight on the road,  accomplishments that would not have been made possible if not for Cahill’s two timely finishes and heavy lifting in a midfield that was without Dax McCarty and Juninho.

“The two goals today were just the cherry on the cake because he does exactly what we ask him to,” head coach Mike Petke said after the game. “He leads us in the midfield, he plays very stingy defense and he’s a workhorse. He’s an example for our young midfielders.”

READ: Cahill's late winner snuffs out Toronto FC comeback

Cahill tallied his first goal of the season - and the second in his Red Bulls career - on a well-worked sequence late in the first half. Roy Miller attacked down the left flank and delivered a low cross that Thierry Henry dummied for Cahill, who buried his shot into the low left corner.

The 40th-minute goal meant a lot to the Australian international, and it showed. Cahill followed up his opener by shrugging off teammate Lloyd Sam and running to the corner flag to do his trademark sparring punches celebration, which had yet to be seen in an MLS match.

“I suppose it’s a just reward for keep knocking on the door,” Cahill said about his performance, “because in other games I’ve contributed probably a lot more and the goals haven’t gone in.”

The Red Bulls proceeded to cough up the lead in the 83rd minute after a gaffe from goalkeeper Luis Robles allowed TFC substitute Jonathan Osorio to find the back of the net.

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Cahill, however, came through again.

After a poor clearance from Ashtone Morgan in the 89th minute, Peguy Luyindula played a ball to Henry inside the 18-yard box that Henry blindly and skillfully delivered into the middle. Cahill, who had given Henry a shout to let him know he was there, then rose up over Morgan to smash the ball in for the winner with one of his patented soaring headers.

“Tim Cahill is a warrior. I’m so happy for him,” Sam said. “He’s not had many goals lately and that’s his thing. He carried the team today and won us the game.”

 Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.