Erik Soler strikes again.
His penchant for wheeling and dealing players this season continued Monday, with reports coming out of England that the Red Bulls had agreed on a roughly $1.5 million transfer fee for Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, which was later confirmed on Everton’s official website.
The Red Bulls officially confirmed the transfer Thursday, with Cahill effusive in his praise of the Red Bulls’ project.
“I am very happy to start a new chapter of my career with the New York Red Bulls,” Cahill said. “As we have seen over the past few years, MLS has developed into a very competitive league with many talented players. I am impressed with what the Red Bulls are trying to accomplish in MLS and within American soccer and I am looking forward to this new challenge. I will do everything I can to help bring New York its first MLS Cup.”
This is a move that Soler has kept well hidden from the media on both sides of the Atlantic. There was wild speculation on what the Red Bulls would do during the transfer window, with the list of targets ranging from Alessandro Del Piero to Guti to even Kaka. Signing Cahill as a designated player comes as a complete shock and one that will no doubt add more intrigue to this season.
In the end, the Red Bulls’ sporting director may have found the central attacking midfielder New York has been craving ever since Soler and coach Hans Backe arrived in New York. Cahill isn’t the biggest or faster player on the pitch. At 5-foot-10, the Aussie isn’t going to wow you with his ability on the ball. But what he does have is the ability most soccer players would kill for: Putting the ball in the back of the net.
Despite his somewhat small stature, Cahill is an unbelievably good header of the ball. Armed with an impressive leap and the knack to guide the ball on goal, the 32-year-old is an asset for a team on set pieces and one with good crossers of the ball from the wings. The majority of his 56 goals for Everton came from scorer headers, which Backe will try to put to use against opposing defenses.
Like a poor man’s Frank Lampard, Cahill likes to creep into the box with a late run from midfield to put away goal-scoring opportunities. His game intelligence is excellent. In this video, notice how many times he gets into dangerous areas in order to score goals.
The addition of Cahill to the Red Bulls’ fold gives New York strength in depth and a talented first team. With Backe employing a 4-4-2 diamond formation, the Red Bulls’ projected starting XI would look something like this:
It’s an attacking formation with main defensive responsibilities falling heavily on Dax McCarty. It does, however, allow Joel Lindpere to shift back to a more left-sided midfield role, something that would accommodate Cahill perfectly. The thought of Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper, Sebastien Le Toux and Cahill linking up together in attack is a mouthwatering prospect and one that should strike fear into opposing defenses … on paper, of course.
There is a worry with Cahill that he’s already past his sell-by date. He scored just two goals with the Blues last season and looked spent as if the pace and power of the English Premier League had taken its toll on him. What the Red Bulls are banking on is that Cahill can be rejuvenated by new surroundings and hope that the switch to MLS will prove beneficial for both parties. Whatever happens going forward, it should make for interesting watching.
There have been many contributors to the Red Bulls’ first-place standing this season, but one player sticks out for Thierry Henry.
“[Connor Lade] has been the man of the season for me, by a distance” the Red Bulls’ captain declared after his team’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union Saturday. “I don’t know what else I can say.”
There’s a good reason for Henry’s praise. The diminutive left full back-turned-left-midfielder turned in a Man of the Match performance against the Union, providing energy and pace along the wings, along with a never-say-die attitude that has made him a darling of the Red Bull Arena crowd. Every time Lade touched the ball Saturday, an audible cheer arose from the fans.
Lade’s willingness to put it all on the line has won him a fan in Henry, who said that he loves Lade … as a teammate, of course.
“He fights for every ball, you can see his desire,” Henry said. “He wants to win, he has everything you want to see in a player, plus the ability.”
No one would have ever thought Lade would have made the impact he has in his first year in MLS. Listed generously at 5-foot-7, the Livingston, New Jersey native is taking his early success in stride and enjoys his role as the scrappy underdog come good.
“I’m a small guy, I’ve been fighting my whole life with bigger guys,” Lade said. “I try to work hard every day — if it [ticks] people off, they’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Scoop on Coop: Back in a Goal Scoring Groove
For someone who has been as prolific as Kenny Cooper has been this season, it was somewhat surprising that the big striker had gone six games without a goal and hadn’t scored since May 23.
But Cooper put an end to the drought with a two headed goals in the win against the Union and hopes to get back to being a regular goal scorer quickly. Still, Cooper said he remained confident during the dry run and felt rewarded for his persistence.
“It’s important to stay positive and just believing,” he said. “ I think you can be confident in the team in that you know we’re going to create chances. Fortunately, I got on the end of them [Saturday].”
Henry said that his strike partner never once changed his demeanor in training and did what every good striker does: keep shooting until the ball finds the net.
“[Kenny] will never put his head down, he will always try to score … hopefully he’s going to go on a run of scoring till the end of the season, we wouldn’t mind that.”