There were many heroes throughout the Red Bulls’ ground-breaking 2013 season, but the drive and energy most essential to the team’s success came from the fiery Tim Cahill, who was named to Major League Soccer’s Best XI on Tuesday, as voted by media, team executives, and players.
It is Cahill’s first Best XI selection and marks the third consecutive year a Red Bulls attacking player has been named, following Thierry Henry’s selection in 2011 and 2012.
Cahill tied for ninth in MLS with 11 goals while adding five assists, but his contributions far exceeded his numerical production. Always inspirational with his energy and skill in midfield, Cahill was a major factor in New York’s recovery from a 2-4-2 start to post the best record in Major League Soccer.
The Red Bulls were 14-5-8 when he started (vs. 3-4 when he did not play), and he usually saved his best for last, producing seven goals and two assists in the season’s final 11 games, while striking for several late goals to help New York pull out results. He was especially prolific when the Red Bulls needed him most, scoring six of his 11 goals on the road and notching the game-winning goal in three of New York’s six road victories.
Here’s a look at five of Cahill’s best moments from the 2013 MLS season:
5. October 20 – New York 3, Houston 0
Leading Kansas City by two points in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, New York went on the road to Houston and got off to what can only be considered the best start in MLS history, as Cahill chested down an early pass and ripped a volley from outside the penalty area that found the net just eight seconds into the match, an MLS record. The early goal allowed the Red Bulls to soak up pressure and cruise to a 3-0 win, setting the stage for the Supporters’ Shield-clinching win the following week.
4. April 27 – New York 2, Toronto 1
The Red Bulls got off to an up-and-down start to the season, but Cahill helped them turn things around by scoring both goals in a 2-1 road win at Toronto to reach the .500 mark with a 4-4-2 record. His second goal came in the 89th minute, as he stunned the BMO Field crowd with a back-post header from a Thierry Henry cross.
3. September 29 – New York 1, Seattle 1
Trying desperately to extend a four-game winning streak, Cahill and the Red Bulls trailed Seattle on the road in a Sunday-night, nationally-televised game in the heart of the playoff race. After a sequence of deflected passes around the top of the penalty area, Cahill popped up with a little bit of class, curling a right-footed shot inside the far post to tie the game and stun the Seattle crowd with only 14 minutes remaining. The goal was crucial to New York's 2-0-2 road record from September on.
2. May 19 – New York 1, LA Galaxy 0
Facing the two-time defending champion in front of a sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena seemed like the perfect time to make a statement, but New York and the LA Galaxy trudged through 90 minutes of sluggish, soggy, scoreless soccer. Enter Cahill. With a patented back-post run and flick, his header gave the Red Bulls a statement win and ran their unbeaten streak to six games; it would eventually reach eight.
1. October 5 – New York 2, New England Revolution 2
Cahill’s most dramatic moment also came at home and also came with his head, but it came in very different circumstances. By this point a frontrunner in the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls were on the brink of a demoralizing home loss to New England, allowing a goal in stoppage time despite being up a man after a Revolution red card. But in the seventh chaotic minute of stoppage time, Cahill was on the spot in the penalty area yet again, powering a header from the penalty spot over stranded New England goalkeeper Matt Reis to tie the game on its final play. They don’t come more dramatic than this one: