Tim Cahill's return could create big lineup decisions for streaking New York Red Bulls

Tim Cahill is inching back towards full health, and that could soon present a bit of a problem for New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke.

Currently on a three-game unbeaten streak, the Red Bulls are set to visit FC Dallas on Sunday and Petke might be forced into figuring out where to fit the recovering Cahill. The Australian international has been sparsely involved in the team’s recent good run of form, but he could make his way back into the starting lineup after he’s deemed healthy from a hamstring injury suffered back on March 30.

Who would make way for Cahill in the lineup is the big unknown, however.

“That’s a good problem to have, to be honest with you,” Petke said on Tuesday. “At the moment, we are on somewhat of a run the last three games and for the most part I like the way the team is playing. We’re coming together. But Tim is a very valuable part of this group and it’s easy to fit someone like Tim in when he’s 100 percent healthy.”

Petke said there will “always be a place” for Cahill on the field, whether it’s in the midfield or up top, in the starting lineup or coming off the bench.

“If he’s 100 percent to go,” Petke said, “then decisions will be made.”

The 34-year-old Designated Player has spent time in central midfield and up top this season, and is most likely to replace one of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Peguy Luyindula or Dax McCarty when he returns to full strength.

“It’s a lot tactically if we play Tim in the midfield,” Petke said. “I like the defensive stability there and also the threat that he can get forward, but he’s very good in the defensive block … I could press him forward and like the odds of him getting his head on something up in the box. Like I said, it all comes into play.

“… But at the end of the day, he’s comfortable playing so many different positions and he’s effective playing so many different positions. But the first and foremost thing is for him to be 100 percent healthy.”

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