UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Apparently traveling thousands of miles after playing in a game on the other side of the globe will not be enough to stop Tim Cahill from starting for the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Cahill looks all but set to be in the starting lineup for the Red Bulls’ crucial Eastern Conference clash against Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 7 pm ET, watch LIVE online) despite having flown in from Qatar on Wednesday. Cahill was with the Australian national team during the FIFA international break, and he put forth a 90-minute, goalscoring performance in a 2-1 win over Iraq on Tuesday.
In the past, Red Bulls head coach Han Backe has repeatedly said he is not keen on starting players returning from international duty due to the fatigue they accumulate from the change in time zones and travel. But with a playoff spot at stake on Saturday, Backe admitted it is important to have Cahill on the field.
“I think he can deal with it,” Backe told reporters on Thursday. “He’s a guy that, his work ethic, you just need it on the central midfield or up front if you play as a [second] striker.”
Cahill also insisted that he felt fresh enough to be able to contribute in the Red Bulls’ third and final regular season match against Sporting KC, which could also mark New York’s last home game of the year if they fail to lock down one of the three remaining postseason spots in the Eastern Conference.
“Yeah, it’s been a lot of travel but I feel pretty good,” said Cahill. “Got a little bit of treatment and training this morning and a little bit of recovery and a full session [Friday], so I’m raring to go Saturday because this means a lot to me to try and close these playoffs as soon as possible.”
The Australian Designated Player has had somewhat of a war of words with Sporting KC after each of their two previous outings with the Red Bulls. Cahill disagreed with Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes’ notion that the Red Bulls sat back in their 1-1 draw in Kansas City in August, and he said he did not think there was anything special about the Eastern Conference leaders after New York suffered a 2-0 loss to them at home in September.
Cahill, however, insisted this week that he has the utmost respect for Sporting KC, saying they are one of the most difficult teams in the league to play against.
“I’m a big fan of their team, the way they work as a team,” he said. “There’s no individuals, they work very hard, they know how to grind a result and they’ve got a few classy players that can whip a ball in.
“In the past, people might take it as not a compliment when I do talk about their team. But the thing is, I’m complimentary of them in different ways because of what I’ve learned about them as a team,” he added. “They’ve mixed it up and they deserve to be top. They’re very strong, they can play football and set plays are very dangerous, but they’ve got a good work ethic, which is key to being a successful team.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.