PHILADELPHIA -- Midseason acquisitions are typically risky propositions when it comes to soccer. Integrating a new player, especially one with star quality, into a new team, let alone a new league, is a big gamble, especially in MLS, where one major bust that eats up a large portion of the modest salary cap can set a team a ways back. When those moves work out, though, they can be championship-sealing acquisitions. The Los Angeles Galaxy had that happen a year ago by bringing in Robbie Keane as the final piece to their championship puzzle, and the New York Red Bulls are hoping to get exactly that out of Everton's Tim Cahill.
The trophy-less Red Bulls (The Emirates Cup doesn't count. Settle down, South Ward) are going for it in 2012. They've mortgaged much of their future between the offseason and in-season moves by putting their myriad of financial resources into attacking stars Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux and spending an MLS mint on injury-prone center back Wilman Conde, who was brought in with the hopes of him finding his 2009 Best XI form and has had spurts of great play interspersed with injury layoffs. Now with Cahill -- the kind of player who smaller-market, DP-starved teams like Columbus, for example, would yearn to land -- being brought aboard simply because the Red Bulls have the clout to do so, they've stockpiled another high-priced, star-quality asset, albeit one who is coming off his worst statistical season in years.
Cahill's capture is not yet final, despite Everton announcing the transfer and even posting a tribute video and fan farewell comments to Cahill on their official website. He still needs to pass a physical and agree to personal terms with the Red Bulls, who have remained coy since Everton's announcement on Monday, issuing a "no comment" on the matter. That did not stop Thierry Henry from gushing over the potential of adding the Australian international to the fray.
"I think he's going to be a great asset," Henry said at a downtown news conference in the buildup to the MLS All-Star Game. "The way he plays, I love the commitment. He's great in the box. His head is unbelievable. He fights. His football IQ is great. Hopefully that can be a plus for us."
Landon Donovan teamed with Cahill during his two loan spells to Everton and knows how big a plus Cahill can be for any team, though he said he did not speak with Cahill about the move. Had he done so, perhaps he would have steered him away from adding to the Red Bulls' cavalcade of stars.
"I didn't speak to Tim about this, particularly," Donovan said. "I would've preferred to have him in L.A. It's a great opportunity for him, and fingers crossed everything works out for him."
Cahill's acquisition came seemingly out of nowhere, with the club being linked to a whole host of other stars (Kaka, Michael Ballack, Stephen Ireland among them) in its well-documented quest to fill its third DP slot. Cahill's name never even registered a blip on the sometimes-outrageous MLS rumor radar, giving Everton's announcement all the more shock value. What will be shocking when this deal ultimately becomes complete are the various ways in which the Red Bulls will be able to pressure the opposition.
With Henry, Cooper and Le Toux occupying the attention of opposing defenses, Cahill's delayed runs, smarts in the box and proficiency in the air both in the run of play and on set pieces could provide the ultimate dagger for teams trying to keep the Red Bulls off the scoreboard. Then again, they'd better be, and that's what the Red Bulls are banking on. Because of salary rules and roster limitations in MLS, teams who buy big into older players have a finite window during which to win. Henry is 34, and his long-term durability remains a question. Wildcard Rafa Marquez is 33 and not getting any fleeter of foot. At 32, Cahill won't have many top-shelf seasons left in his tank. There's a high degree of risk involved, but the potential reward is something that the Red Bulls and their fans have coveted for 17 years.
New York has made plenty of gambles in the past that have not panned out. If the Red Bulls' history were a poker game, it would be full of bad beats. With this latest move, though, it's clear as day that the club is all in on 2012 being its banner year.
• David Beckham is expected to arrive in Philadelphia on Game Day, according to league officials, so don't expect too much playing time for the Los Angeles Galaxy star, who is in fine form with three goals and four assists in his last three matches. Beckham's plate is quite full this week, as he confirmed to The Associated Press that he will be participating in the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics on Friday night. MLS commissioner Don Garber issued a statement Monday saying that Beckham's involvement in the Olympics as either a competitor or an ambassador was expected all along and he was pleased Beckham would take part in the All-Star Game in some capacity.
• Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo confirmed Tuesday Fernando Torres will not be playing in the All-Star game, citing his late arrival to join the club (Monday) as being too soon for him to be involved in the match. U.S. fans wishing to catch a glimpse of the much-maligned Euro 2012 Golden Boot winner may have better luck in Miami on Saturday, when Chelsea plays AC Milan at Sun Life Stadium.
• Philadelphia Union attacking midfielder Michael Farfan was added to the MLS roster Tuesday to give MLS a 19-man squad. MLS All-Star coach Ben Olsen said Farfan's role would likely be to eat up minutes late in the match and provide him with more flexibility and cover in the event of an injury or red card. Given MLS teams go back to work this weekend and some have CONCACAF Champions League matches in the coming weeks, Olsen's task at balancing minutes (he jokingly said that he's fielded calls from every player's agent and coach) is a tricky proposition.