By DAVE MARTINEZ
The New York Red Bulls latest Designated Player, Tim Cahill, has been outspoken about his transition into Major League Soccer but what does his new partner Dax McCarty think?
The 25-year-old veteran of the American top flight has found a solid form all season long while teaming with a plethora of different options in the middle. From Teemu Tainio and Joel Lindpere to enigmatic DP Rafa Marquez, McCarty has been able to excel as a box to box option for the Red Bulls no matter who his partner may be.
Nevertheless, McCarty's current pairing with the Australian international has not been exactly what he expected, though he does not mind that.
"It's a little surprising to be honest," McCarty said. "I figured that he would be that guy always making late runs, but the one thing you learn quick about Tim: he's willing to do anything it takes for the team to win. If that means him being a little bit more defensive for us to make sure we're solid, he does that.
"With a player of his caliber, nothing should really surprise you. He is certainly not a guy who is a traditional #10 but can more than hold his own technically in this league."
In the Red Bulls last match prior to the international break, McCarty played a surprisingly high line against DC United, continuing a trend which has developed since Cahill's arrival. New York sold the Australian midfielder to the general public as a creative midfield presence that would be able to create opportunities for the team's strikers.
Instead, the Red Bulls have inherited a deep lying, opportunistic player who transforms from a distributive defensive midfielder into a dynamic #9 when space and time permits.
For McCarty, the role is both a function of the system and Cahill's conditioning.
"I think he is trying to find his feet a little bit, get touches on the ball," McCarty said. "He hasn't played in a few months and this is kind of his preseason so to speak. It's a little bit different but I enjoy playing with him. It's easier to play with good players. He's proven already how valuable he can be towards our team. No matter what the dynamic is, I think we can figure it out."
"I think that's his best position," coach Hans Backe said. "He could also be a type of second striker but for me, he's a perfect central midfield type of box-to-box player."
"You look at him at the Premiership," he observed, "and he is a guy that played as a second striker for the majority of his career in Everton. You always knew he was dangerous in the box, dangerous in the air, but you don't see his feet too much in the Premier League. It's a little bit more of a physical league where the ball gets played out wide, cross in the box and his heading ability speaks for itself.
"He's very clean on the ball. He's got a very good touch. Technically he is very sound and (as a career forward) that surprised me for sure."
"Even if you put him on central midfield, he will end up as more of a second striker, even with the pressing game when we defend but also as a late runner in the attacking game," Backe said. "That was not really the plan to just play him as a striker but with his running and work ethic, he will adapt as a striker in many, many attacks.”
NEWS AND NOTES
- Rafa Marquez participated in part of Red Bulls training this past Friday and looked sharp. New York have set a return date of September 15th v. Columbus. "He will join in normally for the first 30 minutes (in training) now the first three days, and see how it works. Hopefully, he could join in then on Tuesday if everything works well for a full session," Backe said.
- Teemu Tainio was away from practice on Friday as he participated in a testimonial in the honor of Sami Hyypia, the former Liverpool centerback.
- Backe also revealed his latest acquisition, Lloyd Sam, was fit enough to play '20-25' minutes. Sam was a standout in the Red Bulls training this week, filling in the middle of the pitch in Cahill's (international) absence.
- For weeks leading into September, Backe made clear that he wanted a solid back four to ride into the playoff run. An unlikely quartet has emerged late in the season, and the coach seems content with his options. “Wilman (Conde) has played phenomenal two games as a left back. It surprised me, because I don’t know if he’s played there before. But Kansas and DC, he’s been great, defending-wise, attacking-wise, did his job. (Markus) Holgersson, (Heath) Pearce have played most of the games now as centerbacks. Connor (Lade) playing as a sometimes wide left, right fullback – he’s very versatile. (Brandon) Barklage is back. He’ll pick up the fight, of course. Roy (Miller) is with the Costa Rican national team."