TighIn the midst of a three-game winless streak, the Red Bulls were searching for inspiration. Little did they know they would find it in the form of a 10-year-old boy singing the national anthem.
Oh, that 10-year-old boy? He just so happens to be Kyah Cahill, Tim Cahill's son.
Pushed on by his little boy's rousing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, the Red Bulls designated player took last Saturday's game by the scruff of the neck as he contributed a goal and an assist in New York's 2-1 home win over DC United. It meant everything for Cahill to see his son perform and he said it gave him the motivation needed to put on a Man-of-the-Match performance.
“I said to the lads straight after [the anthem], 'if that doesn't give you motivation, for the fans, for yourselves, I don't know what will,'” Cahill said. “You could see [Saturday], we needed energy, we needed a reaction from the last three games. We needed to show that we could play with no fear and I suppose [Saturday] that's what happened.”
It was a fearless outing from Cahill, who suffered a right ankle injury early on in the match after a reckless two-footed challenge from DC United's Dejan Jakovic in the eighth minute. Despite the knock, the former Everton star found the reserve to fight through the pain and lead by example. Wearing the captain's armband for the match, Cahill believed the added responsibility allowed him to thrive against DC United.
"I've said from the start, even at Everton, I've never needed the captain's armband to lead this team," he said. "The boys know that I'm a true leader and I'll fight to the end."
Playing in an advanced forward position instead of his normal place in center midfield, Cahill and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips caused all sorts of havoc across the DC United backline. Lloyd Sam – the Red Bulls other scorer Saturday – and Jonny Steele did the damage from out wide, sending in tantalizing crosses for Wright-Phillips and Cahill to attack.
“It was up to me and Bradley Wright to set the tempo, put the onus on their defense and make them uncomfortable,” he said after the match. “If they kick the ball long, then we’ve done our job.
Cahill's 38th minute-goal – two minutes after United had equalized – was a typical goal from the Australian. Steele's inch-perfect cross found the head of a leaping Cahill, who nodded past a helpless Bill Hamid to give New York a lead they would never surrender.
It was the perfect response for the Red Bulls as they were able to get the three points and join a crowded first place atop the Eastern Conference. Cahill was quick to praise his teammates for the shift they put in.
“In the end, a complete performance by the team,” he said. “That’s what we’re all about. We’re a team that should leave everything on the pitch. I’m proud of the boys and the team. For the fans, they got what they deserved.”
NOT PAYING THE PENALTY
The Red Bulls might not have gotten the win if it weren’t for the heroics of Luis Robles.
With New York up 2-1 in the 73rd minute, Robles was called upon to stop DC United’s Dwayne De Rosario from the penalty spot, after a foul and a red card were given to the Red Bulls’ Ibrahim Sekagya. But the keeper was up to the task and was able to deny De Rosario an equalizing goal.
“[The penalty save] was incredible because it gave us a bit of a boost,” Red Bulls coach Mike Petke said in his post-game press conference. “We’re down a man, they tie it up right there, and then it’s going to be a real dogfight, so very big game changer.”
Robles said that he had an inkling of where De Rosario was going to send his spot kick, despite the DC United forward’s best efforts to deceive the goalie.
“I felt like he was trying to trip me up,” he said. “I know he did a couple of things very clever forwards try to do to trip the goalie. I felt confident in where it was going and luckily I went the right way.”
The reason why Robles was so confident was that he had done his homework. David Lee, the Red Bulls’ Performance Analyst, revealed later in a tweet of De Rosario’s last 12 penalty attempts, nine of which went to the goalkeeper’s right side.
HENRY ON THE BENCH
According to Big Apple Soccer's Kristian Dyer, a heated argument flared up in training last week between Petke and Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry.
Henry was on the bench at the start of the match against DC United, but came on as a second-half substitute to replace the injured Cahill. When asked about Henry being on the bench, Petke was all smiles and said that the relationship between player and coach is still good.
“[Henry] is an emotional fiery person, which I love about him,” Petke said. “And I’m an emotional fiery person. This happens all over the world, everywhere. It’s just news here because it’s the Red Bulls and it’s Thierry Henry. It’s really much ado about nothing. I’m a coach and I make decisions every day. I made my decision and that’s between me and the team.”
A LOOK AHEAD: AT HOUSTON DYNAMO
The Red Bulls head deep into the heart of Texas for a showdown with the Houston Dynamo Sunday (Live coverage begins at 4:30 PM on MSG).
It’s an important match for both sides as the Red Bulls attempt to keep pace for the lead in the Eastern Conference and the Dynamo try to keep their playoff hopes alive. Houston is one point behind New England for the final playoff spot in the East and will be targeting this upcoming fixture as a must-win.
The Dynamo is coming off a dramatic 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire last Sunday as Adam Moffat’s stoppage-time equalizer gave Houston a badly needed point on the road.
Sekagya is suspended and Cahill, who would have been away with Australia on international duty if it wasn’t for his injury are both out, so it means Petke will have to reshuffle his lineup against Houston. Expect Henry to return to the starting lineup, with Jamison Olave replacing Sekagya at center back.