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Tim Cahill set for New York Red Bulls return

Sep 20, 2013, 4:40 PM EST

Cahill celebrates

The Red Bulls sit tenuously atop the East today – and it’s about as shaky a lead as any team can possible have.

First, Kansas City sits three points back and has a game in hand. That’s a Kansas City team that is undefeated in its last four matches, having soundly dispatched Columbus and Colorado in its last two league contests.

Worse, Montreal also sits three points back and has two games in hand. Marco Schallibaum’s team plays at home this weekend against fading Vancouver, so the opportunity to make up some of the points is there.

That means Mike Petke’s team in New Jersey is far from in the clear. Which means his club needs all the horsepower it can muster down the stretch.

Which is why Friday’s news that Tim Cahill is ready for action this week at Red Bull Arena against FC Dallas must be terribly welcome stuff for the Empire Supporters Club and everyone else around Red Bull Arena. Here’s what Cahill, who missed New York’s lasts two matches with an ankle injury, told MLSSoccer.com about his status

Physically, I’m fantastic. When you get 2-3 weeks off … you end up going in the gym and working on other parts of your body to get stronger and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve actually enjoyed the other side of being in the gym again. … It’s all about getting out and getting used to crosses again and footballing, and when the game comes, getting the service to deliver.”

New York is on a run of good results, with three consecutive wins since that dreadful loss to Chivas USA on Aug. 25. But Petke’s team still needs Cahill for two reasons:

First, they miss some bite in midfield tackling without him. Dax McCarty is always busy as a holding midfielder, pressuring and interrupting passing lanes, and he has worked hard on that part of his game (tackling, that is). But it is still not his forte, so Cahill helps make the midfield a tougher place to get through (when he plays in there, that is).

Second, regardless of these better results, New York still has this pesky inconsistency that it just cannot shake, this habit of playing well against better clubs but dropping a notch against the also-rans. Last week’s win at home over Toronto FC was far from convincing, and not secured until Fabian Espindola’s late insurance strike (in a 2-0 win.)

Cahill was on the bench for that one, but Petke had been clear that he wanted to rest the Aussie international one more week if at all possible, and that Cahill would be deployed only if the Red Bulls desperately needed him at the end.

New York meets FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.

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