Tim Cahill came to Major League Soccer with the reputation of a hard-working, gritty player who could ably fill any number of roles on the field. But he also scored goals.
In 226 games for Everton, Cahill scored 56 times. For the Australian national team, he scored 27 goals in 61 games. But in his first 20 games for the New York Red Bulls, Cahill had scored just once. So, when Cahill scored twice last Saturday in New York's 2-1 road win over Toronto FC, one had to figure the 33-year old midfielder was relieved. Or not.
Cahill took a few minutes after training on Tuesday to discuss the topic with MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com: How does it feel to score a couple of goals?
Cahill: It's nice. I think since the start of the season I've had my chances and maybe been a little unlucky, but with the type of football we're playing I think I'll get more chances, so it's nice to get the goals. But the main thing for me is to make sure that we keep playing with consistency and discipline, and we keep getting the results.
MLSsoccer.com: Why has it been so difficult for you to get goals for the Red Bulls?
Cahill: You play to the game, whether that means you're attacking or defending. For the Red Bulls, I've been more of a utility man that worries about the team first, making sure that we're stable defensively. When I got here, I saw that stats about how the team was conceding a lot of goals in the first five minutes of games, and I wanted to make sure we cleaned that up. I wanted to really concentrate on not conceding, knowing we've got top players like Thierry Henry, and this year Fabian Espindola, who can get our goals.
MLSsoccer.com: Why did things fall your way last week?
Cahill: In this last game, Jonny Steele and Eric Alexander held their positions well and that allowed me to get forward a bit more. But you really have to look at things over the course of a season, to see what's best for the team. So far our results have been pretty good, so the way I see it, if we stay in this 4-4-2 and don't concede early, we'll do well. If I get some goals, great. If the goals fall to other players on our team, I'm fine with that.
MLSsoccer.com: After the game, your manager Mike Petke told reporters to "shut the hell up," about the goal-scoring stuff. I know he was joking, but were you feeling any burden?
Cahill: I've got 15 years of experience at the highest level. I've played in two World Cups. I'm not going to let a few people who just want to look at stats and goals change what I'm trying to do. I didn't feel a burden, but I understand the way fans are with stats.
MLSsoccer.com: So, you're saying you're not a stat geek?
Cahill: I'm here to promote the team first. I'm here to work with the young players. I'm here to build a rapport with my teammates. As long as they're happy with the performance and the effort that I'm giving, that's all that matters. To build our team unity. I want to build what I've built throughout my career, and that's loyalty. That means my teammates have to see me running. They have to see me defending. They have to see me winning every challenge. I scored goals in the Premiership, but regardless of my stats in the past, every game presents new challenges and there's more to this game than goals.