The New York Red Bulls welcomed newcomer Tim Cahill during press conference at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. Photo: Jim Hague
HARRISON – The New York Red Bulls may have just added the missing piece that could bring the club its first-ever MLS Cup come November.
Monday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, English Premier League standout midfielder Tim Cahill was officially introduced as the newest member of the Red Bulls, after signing a three-and-a-half year contract with the club for an estimated $3.5 million per year.
Cahill becomes the team’s third designated player, joining forward Thierry Henry and defender Rafa Marquez. No other MLS club has that kind of international superstar talent at the three main positions, becoming soccer’s version of the “Big Three.”
Cahill, who spent the last eight years as the most popular player on Everton FC of the English Premier League, thought that it was time for a change and come across the pond to be part of the MLS action.
The Australian native, the only Aussie to ever score a goal in World Cup action, knew that it was time for a change in his soccer life.
“I knew in my heart that I could never play for another Premier club,” Cahill said. “I’ve always been loyal. It’s a big move for me. A lot of people may think otherwise, but I’m 32, fit and ready for a new challenge.”
Cahill just received his United States working visa Tuesday morning, enabling him to leave Montreal and come to America. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was persistent in getting Cahill his working visa. Cahill was in Canada for four days, awaiting word on the visa status.
“It was nice to know that people here care that much,” Cahill said. “It’s nice to know that people worked hard to get me here. In that respect, waiting for the visa wasn’t that bad. It was crazy. I had about six flights here and there, not knowing where I was going. But I’m here now, feeling fit and good and ready to go.”
Midfielder Cahill will make his debut with his new club Tuesday night in an international friendly with Tottenham Spotspur, a team Cahill knew very well during his time in Everton.
“I spent 15 years in England, playing in the most powerful league and I did so with loyalty,” said Cahill, who spent seven years with Millwall. “It was really special to play there. I found it hard to field offers other offers, because it would have been hard to play against the club you love. I’m going to miss the lads and the fans, but I’m not going to miss the weather.”
Cahill scored 68 goals in his eight years with Everton. He has earned a reputation as being a solid hard worker, a relentless player to the ball who roams the pitch with abandon.
Cahill said that it was a whirlwind courtship between himself and the Red Bulls, first receiving the contract offer last Thursday.
“It all moved so quickly,” Cahill said. “They called me and it moved fast. I thought about the football, the professionalism of the club, the league and my family. It all seemed to fit. To work with a club like the Red Bulls and play with a true superstar of the game in Thierry Henry helped to make my decision quick. I had to make sure it happened. I have made a commitment to the MLS. I’ve watched a lot of MLS games over the years. It’s a real physical league. I can’t begin to tell you how many people think this league is underrated. But it’s a great league with the new stadiums and the facilities.”
Cahill said that he told no one of his decision to sign a multi-year deal, so his signing was a shock to his Everton teammates.
“When I told the lads, they were shocked,” Cahill said. “Their jaws dropped. But I told them that this was a massive opportunity for me. I built my reputation on loyalty. I never wanted to leave. When an opportunity like this comes, you don’t think twice. At 32, I’m coming here at a good age. I’m not leaving it to my older years.”
Cahill said that he had only been to New York once prior, but he’s looking forward to calling the area home.
“It’s a glamorous city and a great place to be,” Cahill said. “I am going to watch the NBA, go to Yankee games, see the NFL, things I can do with my kids.”
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe was certainly pleased to have a talented player like Cahill come to stabilize his team’s midfield play.
“It’s a great sign for us,” Backe said. “I’ve seen Tim play in Europe for many years with Everton. He’s a great striker and midfielder who can go box-to-box. He’s also guaranteed to give 100 percent. We will now have a central midfielder who will make us consistent. We now have the talent to win it (the MLS Cup). It’s massive for us. He’s an experienced player who can organize our team and make it solid. Tim can be the link to our strikers.”
The team just recently acquired former All-MLS XI player Sebastien Le Toux to go with scorers Henry and Kenny Cooper. Backe said that talented midfielder Teemu Tainio has recovered from knee surgery and will return to the lineup. The additions of Cahill and Tainio enabled the Red Bulls to trade Mehdi Ballouchy to San Jose Monday for a conditional draft pick.
Backe said that he won’t have to alter the team’s strategy to fit in a player like Cahill.
“I don’t think we need to change things with our style,” Backe said. “Tim Cahill changes things with the attack game, while Teemu is more defensive. I think we’re going to be more competitive.”
Cahill said that he will do his best to get the tough New York soccer fans embrace his arrival.
“Fans are important to me,” Cahill said. “I’m going to try to win them over with the right motivation and passion for the game. Over the duration, they’ll know what kind of character I have and what kind of person I am.”
Red Bull Nation will love Cahill even more if he’s able to bring home the long-awaited MLS Cup title.