Tim Cahill isn’t apologizing for his recurring role with the Australian national team, even if it means he could miss a crucial part of the New York Red Bulls’ playoff push.
Cahill told media members at Red Bull Arena on Friday that while it’s been difficult balancing club duties in Major League Soccer with his status as the veteran leader of the Socceroos, he doesn’t intend to miss his country’s two upcoming friendlies.
Australia will take on the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi in an international friendly on Oct. 10 before a second match against Qatar on Oct. 14 in Doha. Those games will put Cahill’s status up in the air for the Red Bulls, who play league games on Oct. 11 and Oct. 19 while attempting to reach the MLS playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
“This year, it is difficult,” Cahill said. “In the amount of games I have had to go away and travel and still make myself available [for New York] when I shouldn’t have … everyone is happy when you do well in a World Cup, but when you come back and you leave again …
“We shouldn’t be in this situation anyway,” he added. “We shouldn’t be fifth and a point away from dropping out. We should be comfortable. If you look at the season, it’s down to our own fault.”
Australia’s upcoming friendlies are being considered a tune-up to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, which will be held in January in Cahill’s native Australia.
Cahill missed four MLS games in May and June while Australia prepared for and played in the World Cup. Although he started a string of New York’s games in July and August, his playing time has been cut back of late, and he’s logged a full 90 minutes in just one of the team’s past nine league games.
He’s appeared in 17 games this year for Australia, meanwhile, scoring 10 goals.
And while rumors are lingering around Red Bulls camp that the club is upset with Cahill prioritizing the Socceroos ahead of his MLS duties, he shrugged off the idea that his diminished playing time is a type of punishment.
“For me, [balancing club and country] doesn’t matter. It is what it is,” Cahill said. “Coach makes the decision and he has to live by it. If [the Red Bulls] are upset that I go on international duty, I have stated before coming to this club that [Australia] was my main focus. It was stated to the MLS. It is what it is; I don’t make the FIFA dates the same as every other FIFA date. It’s a pleasure to play for your country.”
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters Friday that he has not spoken to Cahill about the situation, and that the club is focused on its match against the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (6 pm ET; NBCSN).
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“I am 34 now. I don’t need to worry about people [telling] me about international football,” Cahill said. “Likewise with the club, I had it at Everton, and David Moyes, one of the most influential managers in the world. If I could deal with it with him, no comment if it can’t be dealt with here.”
“Put yourself in my situation,” he added. “I am 34 years old. Went to a World Cup as the oldest player [for my team]. My country looks up to me to lead the team every time I play. Pivotal in qualifying. Pivotal in World Cup. Being a good ambassador. I led the line form the front last year here at New York Red Bulls every game. Put my body on the line numerous times and we won a Supporters’ Shield. The same I would do with my country.”
Cahill said he wasn’t concerned about if he’ll play against Houston, and that his focus will then switch to Australia’s game after the match regardless of his playing time on Saturday. He added that if he doesn’t play after his return from international duty, he’ll address the situation then.
“I apologize to the Red Bull fans, which some of them don’t really understand, my country means a hell of a lot to me like their own countries would if they were asked to represent their country,” Cahill said. “I just feel that tying to keep everyone happy obviously works against you, but at the end of the day, 17 years as a professional football player, playing international and three World Cups and my third Asia Cup, it is what it is now.”