Socceroo Tim Cahill is facing a battle to earn regular game-time in the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup with New York coach Mike Petke admitting he’s not guaranteed a starting spot.
Red Bulls started the season without a win in six matches, but have put together a run of seven points in three games, during which Cahill has only played 30 minutes off the bench following a hamstring injury.
Dax McCarty and Peguy Luyindala have combined well in Cahill’s central midfield role, while forward Bradley Wright-Phillips was this weekend’s MLS Player of the Week after a hat-trick.
Cahill, who was named in last year’s MLS Best XI, is close to full fitness after his injury lay-off but Petke conceded he had a headache on finding a spot for him to return.
"Well, that's a good problem to have, to be honest with you," Petke said during his Tuesday media conference call.
"At the moment, we are on somewhat of a run the last three games. For the most part I like the way the team has been playing, coming together.
"Tim is a very valuable part of this group. It's easier to put someone like Tim in when he is 100 per cent healthy.
“So whether it be in the midfield or up front, there should always be a place for Tim, whether that's off the bench or to start."
Cahill hasn’t played a full 90 minutes for New York since mid-March, only a fortnight after netting a double in Australia’s 4-3 friendly loss to Ecuador.
Petke has been cautious with Cahill’s return from the injury he sustained against Chivas USA in late March and said that would continue to be his approach.
The Red Bulls said Cahill was “ready to go” for the weekend’s win over Columbus but opted to leave him on the bench as an unused substitute.
"The first and foremost thing is for him to be 100 per cent healthy and that's why we extended it an extra week without putting him in against Columbus," Petke said.
"I want to make sure that he's really, really 100 per cent ready to play."comments