Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill held court at MLS Media Day, providing an intriguing analysis on the Supporters Shield, the community that’s being built at the Red Bulls, and his preparations for the upcoming World Cup.
Any truth to rumors that you’re scheduled to play up front this year?
I think it’s still early to say. I think it will be a big year for the Red Bulls but whether it’s an advanced role or in the midfield, I think it will pan out over the course of the season.
What are your thoughts on the increase in spending in MLS?
It’s fantastic. The imprint the league is making on the world stage is significant. Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar are world class players so for MLS to have the intent of going for players like that is fantastic.
Discuss the competitive balance of MLS compared to the Premier League.
Just because your club has the best players doesn’t mean you’re going to win. What’s gonna win is continuity, a strong foundation, a base of players who player day in day out and consistency. That’s the difference for the last 1.5 years the the Red Bulls. We formed a core here, a family atmosphere throughout the whole of last season. And we fought the whole season. We cleared that hurdle now it’s up to us as to take it to the next level.
The only way the league can get better is by having a system whereby you keep a strong majority of the players. The bar always has to raise regardless of how your last season was. A few years ago the Red Bulls were a commercialized team. Last year we won the Supporters Shield and now we’ll go anywhere and try to mix it up with the best of them. I feel winning the Supporters Shield, we were the most consistently team the whole year. I still feel we won the hardest thing to win, the Supporters Shield. This year the goal is to win MLS Cup.
Last year we were all learning. It was Mike Petke’s first year. This year, it’s going to be difficult but it’s just about finding the consistency.
Do you think winning the Supporters Shield changed the culture of the club?
100%. When I first came here, I said I want to win the Supporters Shield. Before that we were a team with no identity. I was OK to lose games 5-3 and I played deep so we wouldn’t concede goals. Now we’re pushing forward with establishing a community. I want this to be a family club.
Community, family, spirit – it all sounds a bit like Everton. How much did your time there influence how you feel now?
It was everything. Fans can only relate to trust. They now have a feeling, an identity, whereas before they felt they didn’t belong to something. It’s about having that connection. When I leave New York, I’d like to think I can leave the same important mark that I left at Millwall and the same I’ve lived with at Everton. This is what I’ve done throughout my career.
How do you juggle MLS with international demands?
Personally, I need to play as many games as possible before going to the World Cup. I want to do well for Red Bulls which means automatically I’ll be ready to get on that plane for Australia come June.
During last season we would target how many points to get through a week. Kansas City led most of the way but then blew up. But we stayed consistent, just targeting the points and it worked because we won the Supporters Shield.
With the international schedule, MLS and our Champions League and Open Cup competitions, the Red Bulls are definitely going to need rotations. It’s going to be a difficult season but it’s also going to be enjoyable.
Did you contemplate a loan deal this year?
Why do it? I just finished a massive season for the Red Bulls, in cup competitions and internationally. Yeah, it’d be great to go back to the Premier League but at what cost to the Red Bulls?
Given my ankle injuries from last year I needed to make sure I got healthy in the off-season and so that I could miss as few games as possible.
How is your preparation different now in MLS than in previous years in Premier League?
If I stayed in Premier League, I would have to have retired from international football. The demands of flying back and forth from England to Australia and wanting to do justice to my club side would be too much. I take the same approach now as I’ve taken in past years – it’s just that in MLS the demand of games and travel time isn’t as high as the Premier League.
It hasn’t been easy coming to MLS. Physically, it’s demanding. Every player is exceptionally fit and it shows on the National Team.