New York’s newest Designated Player, Tim Cahill, made his debut as a Red Bull against English Premier squad Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Vera / DailyHarrison.com
HARRISON – There were good things and bad things about the New York Red Bulls’ international friendly with English Premier squad Tottenham Hotspur Tuesday night.
First, the bad. The timing of the inaugural Barclays New York Cup match, holding it on a Tuesday night in the middle of a fiercely contested MLS season, was not really optimal.
Even Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe believed so Monday on the day before the match, when he was asked if this was a good time to host a friendly against a British squad.
“No,” Backe said, offering nothing more on the subject.
So it also wasn’t good that the Red Bulls dropped the match to Tottenham, taking an early lead, then watching the British invaders come in to score twice and swoop up the New York Cup, taking the 2-1 decision before 21,701 fans at Red Bull Arena.
Now, there were the good things. Newly acquired midfielder Tim Cahill made his debut with the Red Bulls, just a day after the ink dried on a new three-plus year deal.
Cahill immediately showed the grit, determination and hard-working style that endeared him to British soccer fans as he spent the last eight years with Everton FC.
In just the eighth minute of action, Cahill was pulled down in the penalty box, drawing a penalty kick attempt for Kenny Cooper.
Cooper nailed the free chance and the Red Bulls had an early 1-0 lead.
“I’m not surprised with what Tim can do,” Backe said. “He’s a huge signing for us. Just picking up the penalty the way he did, organizing the midfield, defending wide in his time on the pitch. He was just phenomenal.”
In the 28th minute, fans received a scare, when Cahill seemed to catch an elbow from Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Cahill went down and remained on the turf for about a minute as Red Bull Arena drew to a silent hush. But Cahill got up on his own accord and continued to play.
“I was fine,” Cahill said. “It’s part of football. That happens sometimes. I got the elbow to my chin. You take one on the chin and get up. It’s a man’s game.”
RBNY led, 1-0, at the half, but when the Red Bulls entered the pitch for the second half, Cahill was not among the players. He wasn’t expected to play more than 45 minutes in his debut and he did not, getting replaced by Victor Paulsson.
Teemu Tainio, who spent more than three years playing with Tottenham, also made his return for RBNY after missing more than two months with a knee injury. Tainio also played the first half only, replaced at halftime by Jan Gunnar Solli. Having Cahill and Tainio on the midfield together is a positive sign moving forward.
“It was the first game me and Tim played together and some other guys also, so it’s good,” Tainio said. “The guys who would play this year have been doing great. Now, we have almost everyone on the board with no injuries, so I think we have great weeks coming that we can really look forward to.”
Tottenham tied the game in the 59th minute, when Gareth Bale scored on a header off a corner kick that tied up RBNY net minder Bill Gaudette.
Tottenham then scored the game-winner five minutes later, when Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a goal. Sigurdsson maneuvered his way through three Red Bull defenders with some nifty foot work and hit a shot that Gaudette never had a chance to stop.
So it was a game of both positives and negatives for the Red Bulls, who now travel to face Houston Friday night at 7:30.
“I think we started well,” Backe said. “We played solidly for the first 20 minutes and we had the PK goal. But then they put us under pressure. We knew that we were going to focus on sharp defense because we always concede too many goals. Even if we were under pressure, I don’t think they picked up one solid scoring chance.”
The Red Bulls played the game without Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry, who were late scratches. In fact, Marquez was in the original starting lineup, but his balking left calf acted up again during warm-ups and he asked out.
But it was Cahill’s debut and the Aussie superstar felt pretty comfortable with his new squad.
“I’m going to make myself available to the boss (Backe) and the rest of the team,” Cahill said. “I’m here now. I’m a Red Bull. I’m going to try and enjoy it. I’m going to play my style of football, train with the team now before the next game, train with the boys and get to know them even better. I need them to trust me, that’s the main thing. I trust all of them.”
It looks as if it could be a marriage made in soccer heaven.