Tim Cahill's time in Major League Soccer have not exactly gone well. The Australian international came to the league on a contract that makes him one of the highest paid players in league history, but he had only one goal and five assists to show for it through his first 20 matches. The word "bust" had started to be thrown around with increasing regularity.
Those cries should be quieted, at least for now as Cahill scored a pair of goals to lead the New York Red Bulls to a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday. Both were the product of solid finishes and prominently involved fellow DP Thierry Henry, with the winner coming on a 89th minute header from a perfectly placed cross.
Might this be the game that really gets the Red Bulls -- and Cahill's -- season heading in the right direction? There's at least reason to hope.
The Red Bulls have now won two straight for the first time this year and they've now won 4 of 6. Those aren't exactly world beating numbers -- and it's worth noting that their last three wins have come against teams with a collective record of 3-11-7 -- but considering they started the season winless through their first four, it's a sign of undeniable progress. It's also enough to put them atop the Eastern Conference standings, albeit with the fifth best points per match average.
Cahill seems to be playing a bigger and bigger part, too. Both of his goals and both of his assists this season have come in the Red Bulls' last five matches.
In this one, he seemed to be showing signs that he and Henry are coming to a nice understanding. On his first goal, which came right before the end of the first half, Henry dummied a pass from Roy Miller and let it roll through to Cahill, who was in a much more dangerous position. Cahill hit it first time to beat Joe Bendik.
The winner more directly involved the duo, as Henry ran onto a ball as it went toward the endline and lobbed in a cross to the front of the goal. Cahill was able to rise about the defender and power it into the back of the net.
On the other side, the late goal continued a rather troubling trend for TFC. They had equalized in the 83rd minute on a well-taken goal from Jonathan Osorio that injected some life back into a crowd that was clearly growing restless.
Instead, they had their hearts ripped out gain. The 89th minute goal marked the fourth time in five games that TFC had given up the deciding goal that late in the match. In the one game where TFC didn't give up such a late deciding goal, they had scored one themselves. Nearly as troubling is the fact that they've now given up the deciding goal in the second half of all seven matches they haven't won this year.
Although Ryan Nelsen seems to have succeeded in making TFC competitive, it's becoming obvious that they still have a lot to win about putting matches away.