October 1, 2012
THE PERFECT PARTNERSHIP?
McCarty, Cahill give the Red Bulls a strong central midfield
By Michael Lewis
|Dax McCarty: The partnership with Tim [Cahill] . . . has a chance to grow. I think it's just going to get better and better."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- Since the start of the Major League Soccer season in March, the Red Bulls used eight pairings at central midfield with varying degrees of success and failure.
They just might have found the perfect combination, and quite possibly the best, with designated player Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty. They were outstanding in the 4-1 home win over Toronto FC on Saturday night. They won balls, played smart defensively, headed the ball out of harm's way in the defensive third and were physical when needed.
Both players said they felt the budding partnership has a huge upside.
"With Dax playing with you, there's a lot of energy between us," Cahill said. "We want to win every ball, we want to clear every ball. We want to run and do other people's jobs and our own jobs. I suppose it feels like the best combination at the moment or the team. It's a nice partnership."
Added McCarty: “The partnership with Tim . . . has a chance to grow. I think it's just going to get better and better."
Saturday's game wasn't the first time they were paired together. They were in the middle for the first time in the 2-0 home win over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 10, which was Cahill's second MLS match.
To many members of the media, team observers and fans, McCarty has been the most important Red Bulls player this season, particularly for his defensive performances. He has started 30 of 31 games, having been forced to sit out the 2-0 loss at the Houston Dynamo due to a yellow-card suspension.
"I really enjoy playing with Tim in the middle," McCarty said. "He hit the nail on the head. In this league, you play against some pretty athletic midfields, some pretty good midfields. Obviously, with our older guys, Rafa [Marquez], Teemu [Tainio], they're our more experienced guys, their positioning is fantastic. Sometimes you need guys who can cover some ground in there. So with me, I just try to make sure we're solid defensively and then I let our special players who can attack make magic and go forward.
McCarty, who recently had been pushed to the right side when Tainio and Marquez shared the central roles, said he was quite comfortable getting an opportunity to be back in the middle of things.
"It felt good being back in the middle of the field," he said. "I felt comfortable in there. I was a little bit rusty, to be fair. But other than the goal they scored, I think we're pretty solid defensively. I don't think they created too many chances. . . . I'm very happy to be back in the middle.”
Since the 2-1 season-opening loss at FC Dallas, the Red Bulls have played mix and match, with McCarty playing a majority of games in the middle along with Tainio, Marquez, Victor Palsson, Joel Lindpere an Cahill (for the record, former Red Bull Mehdi Ballouchy started two Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup matches alongside McCarty).
Here are the eight combinations from MLS action:
* McCarty and Tainio
* McCarty and Marquez
* McCarty and Palsson
* McCarty and Lindpere
* McCarty and Cahill
* Tainio and Cahill
* Cahill and Marquez
* Tainio and Marquez
One interesting and incredible stat about when Tainio has started for New York in the central role: the team hasn't won a game in seven attempts, going 0-4-3. That's something that coach Hans Backe might want to take into account when choosing future lineups, especially around playoff time.