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Frustrated Cahill’s outburst should not come as a surprise

Tim Cahill New York Red Bulls 3092

Photo by Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports



The New York Red Bulls wrapped up Thursday’s morning training session by doing an 11-v-11 drill. Immediately after it ended, a clearly upset Tim Cahill was the first player to walk off the field with Andy Roxburgh in tow trying to calm the midfielder down.

Then, Cahill uttered aloud, “I come here to train. I’m wasting my (expletive) time.”

The outburst was a rare moment of extreme frustration from the usually composed Cahill, but not an entirely surprising one. For much of this season, the Australian international has struggled to find a regular role in the Red Bulls’ lineup. He has bounced between forward and midfield without cementing a place in the team, and all while trying to juggle the demanding international duties of a World Cup year.

Those factors combined with the emergence of forward Bradley Wright-Phillips have seen head coach Mike Petke give Cahill a reduced role, especially in the attack, one season after the Designated Player played a major part in helping the Red Bulls lift the Supporters’ Shield. The tactical switch has forced Cahill to try and adapt, but his constant call-ups to Australia have not allowed him to fully settle and recently forced Petke to field a lineup with Dax McCarty and Eric Alexander in holding roles that has proven more successful.

Going from key contributor to blue-collar starter is one thing. Going from key contributor to the bench is another, especially when you’re the star player for your country.

So it stands to reason that the 34-year-old Designated Player is irritated over having a lesser role, and why he has no issues over leaving for a pair of international friendlies next week despite the Red Bulls being in the thick of a race for a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day, everything that we did last year, I was involved in everything,” Cahill told reporters on Friday. “We got a Supporters’ Shield, we won the first trophy here in 18 years, and now things are changed up. If that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be.

“My mental focus is for the team and not for myself individually. … If I don’t play here, if I don’t play tomorrow because of international duty, then I will play Qatar and (United Arab Emirates). If I come back and I don’t play again, then I will address the situation.”

Cahill later added:  “I don’t pick the formation, I don’t pick the team. All I know is that last year when I was playing, we seemed to do okay.”

It might seem like this boiling over of frustrations is down to him being benched by Petke in recent weeks, but for several observers that follow the team regularly this feels like something that has been building up for months due in part to how he is utilized in Petke’s system. Think about, how often recently have you seen Cahill go up to challenge for one of his trademark headers?

Last season, Cahill was as automatic in terms of being available postgame for interviews as he was to be in New York’s lineup. Win or lose, good or bad performance, he would talk to the media at length and answer any and all questions. He was voted the Red Bulls’ Media Good Guy by the press at the end of the campaign.

This year, things have changed. Cahill often slips out of the locker room by the time local reporters get access to speak to players. When he does talk, he is still as engaged and charismatic as always, but there is a sense from some of his responses that he has not bought into his role the same way he did last season, when he scored a team-high 11 goals and was in the conversation for MLS MVP.

“With the Australian team, I know my job,” Cahill said back in early September when asked about the difference between playing as a forward and midfielder. “I have to make the box and I know where the ball’s going to go before it even gets in there. My last eight games with Australia I’ve scored seven goals and against some of the best teams in the world.

“Here, it’s discipline. It’s hard because even though you make the box, it might not be there, it might be for someone else. You seen the other day when I run into the box, it frees up two other players, so it’s very physical. They mark very well, so as long as someone else is getting in and scoring then that’s great.

“Overall, domestic to international for me it’s not in the same level when it comes to tactics or whatever. I might play next to Dax (McCarty), we might take turns in going. When I come on the other day sitting (vs. D.C. United) next to Dax, possibly I wanted to swap with Peguy (Luyindula) and get up higher and it’s just playing what you have to and adjusting.”

Cahill proved this summer at the World Cup that he can still play at a very high level, and also showed in MLS that he was worth his $3.5 million price tag last season when he led the Red Bulls to their first trophy.

In New York, however, the team has evolved. Wright-Phillips is now the top scoring threat next to Henry. Luyindula is seen as one of the more creative players on the club. McCarty and Eric Alexander are deemed to give the defense more cover. Youngster Ambroise Oyongo has stepped up as a left-sided player to provide further competition in the midfield.

Cahill might have a tough time cracking into that Red Bulls’ lineup for the remainder of the season, but it is the situation he is in and one he will have to come to terms with if he wants to avoid a different type of frustration. One that comes when you miss the playoffs.


  1. Cahill is being a little unreasonable. Things can’t be just like last year because there’s another guy playing next to Henry who can’t stop scoring. To the extent the team is worse this year it’s because of the defense, not the attack.

  2. In addition to MLS vs FIFA, NYRB is a disaster. The organization is committed to their two clubs in Europe–not in the US. They never signed a third DP, and they kiboshed their idea to launch a USL Pro team. Moreover, Gérard Houllier is a classless fool that undercuts his team and management. The only solution is for NYRB to sell the franchise to another organization. What if the owners of NY Cosmos purchase the franchise?

  3. If you want to still play for your country, don’t sign with MLS. Cahill is just finding out what a joke MLS is for playing on FIFA dates. Hopefully this will alert other players who still want to play for their country to not sign with MLS.

    • Of what worth are these friendlies to anyone his age… ? Australia should drop him in favor of younger talent His lack of respect for the red bulls may be the reason he’s on the bench

  4. 2015 Sounders .. We’ll take him on as a rebuild project next year.. forget the DP tag.. Come out west.

    Cmon timmy you know you want to play for a class org.

  5. Cahill’s production hasnt’ been very good this year mainly because he’s been playing out of position. BWP and Henry are ahead of him at the forward spot. He really doesn’t want to be hear and the fans don’t really want him. Not a surprise he would choose Australia over Red Bulls.

    • Well when Henry goes he can take that spot and we will see how it goes.
      Any guesses ?
      I say disaster.

      • Thats a possibility. However, it seems as Cahill wants to leave and Red Bulls want to spend less on DPs. Therefore, the likely hood that Cahill leaves is very high.

  6. There’s a bit if a vicious cycle going on here. How can Petke find a consistent role for Cahill when he misses so many games for international duty? Who plays up top next to BWP when Cahill is absent?

    Cahill is most effective up top in a 4-4-2, but Petke had to shore up the defense, which has been shipping goals all year. That meant going to a 4-2-3-1, with Henry playing a more withdrawn role. It has worked, but it also leaves little room for Cahill. Let’s also remember that Cahill has not exactly lit it up when he has had his opportunities this year.

    Petke may not be a master tactician, but I give him credit for making some difficult choices. It may be time for Petke, and Henry, to address this situation publicly. Henry has never been reluctant to point out the team’s deficiencies. I wonder if he has the guts, and the interest, to address this problem.

  7. I am not aboard….he played hard sporadically last year – there were plenty of games he just disappeared; it has nothing to do with the formation, which is a convenient excuse…..

    this year more of the same; stupid fouls and yellow cards and he is supposed to be a team leader….not alleviating Mike P of his coaching responsibilities; not alleviating Red Bull for their less than full commitment to this team BUT when you make $3+ million in a league like ours – you bust your tail and shut up….

    Next year we lose him and Henry – that is $10 million in salary – that will be the real sign of what this organization is about; this club pays Tim’s salary and FIFA rules are what they are but you can request to play for club and he cares not to do that… Tim when he is on the field – he is at 3/4 speed and effort


    • This is how I see it. Cahill is a great player and has a presence with the team as someone to look up to but he has to score goals. He’s not a defensive minded player, his place is heading free kicks and corners into the goal.

      I love his spirit and his twitter feed is always positive and shows his ambition. However, its about producing when you’re out there.

      I recall his last days at Everton were similar. Long stretches without goals, frustration boiling over.

      He should be above the antics.

  8. Cahill is right. I’ve been saying this ever since he got here. His head remains one of the more dangerous offensive weapons in World football and he has well proven his ability to score with his feet. Petke’s use of him as a deep defensive mid is a criminal misuse of his talents. He needs to be in the box next to BWP as often as possible, period end of story. Whoever needs to be benched for that to happen, so be it. You don’t build a team on Dax McCarty or Eric Alexander.

  9. You want to solve all these problems get 7 9pts next 3weeks all will be forgotten trust me rbny going forward will be built like real salt lake Kansas city Portland if we win trophies who cares il take vvaleri besser aid etc over anyone we got . We may get 1big dp maybe.I worship ground henry walks on but he screwed us not letting us no what was going on truth it messed management not excuse wish it was

  10. I feel bad for Tim. After the season he had last year and his performance at the cup, he’s the one who has to adjust? The team should have been built around him and Henry to begin with, but Tim is now surplus to goods? After being the “coach on the field” and chummy with Petke, now it’s just a big joke?

    You know, other international stars will pay attention to how guys like Cahill are being treated, and it will discourage more high caliber players for coming over. If we could produce more of our own in this country, it wouldn’t be as big of a concern. How’s that “Homegrown” player initiative working out for you, MLS?


      • Either play BWP and Cahill up top together, or have Cahill be CAM for support. All I know is he got a raw deal this season, in my opinion…

    • We are giving Cahill too much credit he’s what Donovan would have been if he played in Europe all his career. He really good but not high caliber. Henry is high caliber

      • In relation to MLS standards, not the whole world. Obviously there are players of higher quality abroad, but if we don’t treat a player of Cahill’s stature with proper respect, you think the ones better than him will come? Even if they did, we probably wouldn’t handle them effectively if this situation is any indication…

  11. Red bulls is becoming a mess and more of a mess and even if they win MLS cup,it won’t help the situation.
    This red bull team is going to explode and the fans are going to walk away and nycfc will be laughing the whole way, and of course the only way red bull survives if they get top 3 dps next year but they won’t.
    Another thing, if I was pretke , I would ask for money to get top 3 dps and compete. We are talking about a New York team, a freaking New York team own by red bull. Red bull is filthy rich and won’t bankrupt until some chemist does a better energy drink 🙂
    If red bull don’t commit then pretke should quit and MLS should send a letter to red bull stating, that selling re bull is not a bad thing, but negotiating is better.

    • Petke is a joke of a coach. He has no concept of substitutions, and has completely burned out his key players – hence Henry not playing in the CONCACAF games because of his Achilles, Sam and Oyongo suffering hamstring injuries, etc. I’m giving it one more season as a ticket holder to see what Hollier and Rox do to straighten shit out, because Petke is not the answer.

  12. MLS should play on FIFA date. Simple solution. The USMNT is the only one that compromises for MLS and it hurts our development everyone else just leaves.

  13. I don’t blame him for choosing to play for a team where he feels appreciated.
    After the word cup he had he shouldn’t have to struggle for playing time in MLS.

  14. Why have I not seen a single soccer pundit (the likes of Wahl, Twellman, Lalas, etc.) call out Cahill for this nonsensical behavior? It is ridiculous that he would elect to miss a playoff race battle to go and play in two useless friendlies. I have no problem when these guys missing games for World Cups, training camps leading to big tournaments, etc. Hell I could ALMOST even see missing a match to play in a friendly against the likes of Germany, Brazil, Spain, etc. but not garbage teams like UAE and Qatar. That is unacceptable. I get the whole “country over club” thing in most instances, but not here.

    It’s not as if him missing these two games would keep him out the Asia Cup, which is what he was emphasizing as to what his goal is to do. There is no way in hell the Aussie manager would keep him from joining that squad because he missed two useless games now. Unreal. Cahill is being a d!ck head, plain and simple.

    On the flip side, I do think Petke is in over his head and has not used Cahill correctly at all. Depending on what formation is used, have TH14 be a withdrawn striker or winger, and have BWP and Cahill up top. That would be lethal. Having Cahill in the center mid is useless.

    • It’s not so much country over club, it’s more country over league. These are offical FIFA dates that have been on the calendar for awhile. Every time a MLS player chooses to play for their country on FIFA dates, it’s MLS’ fault. NYRB’s knew that Cahill he was international player before they signed him. They knew he would gone during those dates and can’t expect him to change that just because it’s not convenient for them.

      Petke made this an easy chose becasue Cahill is choosing to play for the coach that he feels has been loyal to him. If he doesn’t feel he’ll play for NYRB, but will for Australia, then I can’t blame him.

      • Bingo…

        Can you blame s guy who doesn’t necessarily “feature” for New York right now…

        Sure.. he remains a vital part of the team’s makeup.. but this an interesting approach to the situation by Head Coach Mike Petke…

      • + 1

        I don’t know why more fans and media aren’t holding MLS more accountable for the scheduling when stuff like this goes down. Especially when it regards international star players…

    • Cahill’s gone a little too far Ill give you that..

      But somethings seriously brewing in Red Bulls camp these days..

      Houllier’s been quoted in the press a little more than normal..

      Cahill up top with Phillips is a fantastic idea and can be done immediately..

      Who’s calling the shots here?

      • Where do you put Henry then? Who is going to give you nothing on the defensive side. NYRB have scored the most goals of anyone in the east. Problem is they’ve also given up the 3rd most.

    • Meaningless!…. The Soccerroos are preparing for the Asian Cup in January which they are hosting btw. Qatar and UAE aren’t great teams but it’s important for them to use the allotted FIFA fixtures to develop their chemistry. No club has the right to hold a player back during this time period. Plus it doesn’t sound like Ny needs him that much…


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