HARRISON, N.J. – New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill’s tour with the Australian national team came to an end just last Monday when he watched the Socceroos play their last game of the World Cup, a 3-0 loss to Spain.
Despite the short turnaround, there was no doubt that Cahill was going to see the field in New York’s home matchup with Toronto FC on Friday.
“I was hoping to bring Tim on in the 88th minute up 3-0 so the fans could clap him for the wonderful World Cup he had,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters after the match. “But obviously things change with the score.”
As it turned out, Petke had to call Cahill into the game slightly earlier than planned, and with the Red Bulls down 2-1 in the 78th minute the Australian subbed on for goalscorer Peguy Luyindula, who had given New York the lead in the 36th minute.
“I spoke with the boss [on Thursday], the boss said ‘Would I be available?’ And I said, ‘yeah, I’ll be available,’” Cahill told reporters after the match. “Straight away he knew it was never going to be to start, but I said… if you need me to play half-an-hour, I’ll be ready.”
Cahill didn’t even need half-an-hour to make a difference. Coming on just six minutes after Toronto FC took the lead off a venomous freekick from DP striker Gilberto, Cahill helped level the game deep into stoppage time by heading a long-ball from center back Matt Miazga down into the path of a charging Bradley Wright-Phillips for the Englishman’s 12th goal of the season.
“[Toronto FC center backs Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry had] come to challenge a few times beforehand and couldn’t win the header, and they thought they’d be smart and back off and get my second ball,” Cahill said of the goal sequence. “That’s the mind games you play with center backs. [Caldwell and Henry] are massive, and they won everything all day, but as soon as I won two headers before that, they didn’t want to come and challenge and have the physical battle.”
The Red Bulls’ are now fifth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Toronto FC, but the Reds have four games in hand on New York.
“I can’t stop saying it; it’s MLS. It really is any given day,” Petke said. “We have 18 games left right now, 18 games to get it done. It’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned. We’re going to get it done.”