The Red Bulls are coming off a pretty successful September, win which they played seven games, went 3-2-2 and came out the other end in control of their playoff destiny.
Elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League and the 4-0 drubbing by the LA Galaxy aside, it wasn't a bad outcome for a team stuck in second gear all season and nursing a bad Supporters' Shield hangover.
So what do the Red Bulls need heading into the last leg of the MLS home stretch, currently just hanging on to the final playoff position by the skin of their teeth?
A feud with one of their highest-paid players over international call-ups? Yeah, what the hell, why not?
See, Tim Cahill wants to go play for Australia in their upcoming friendlies against the UAE and Qatar, Oct. 10 and Oct. 14. That'd mean missing a key game against Toronto FC -- who, as of this writing, sits one point behind the Red Bulls with a game in hand -- Oct. 11. The Red Bulls seem to want him to stay, but Cahill is determined to go, and he might not start tomorrow against the Houston Dynamo if he does.
"For me [balancing club and country] doesn't matter. It is what it is. Coach makes the decision and he has to live by it," Cahill began. "If they are upset that I go on international duty, I have stated before coming to this club that it was my main focus. It was stated to the MLS. It is what it is. I don't make the FIFA dates the same time as every other FIFA date. It's a pleasure to play for your country."
"If I can fit in the team, if I can't, so be it," he continued. "I'll always make myself available. Last week against the LA Galaxy, I was a holding midfielder. The week before, I was a striker. So, who knows? For me it doesn't matter because I am a professional. It's not my problem. It's the people that make the decisions [problem]."
"I am 34 now. I don't need to worry about people [telling] me about international football. Likewise with the club, I had it at Everton, and David Moyes, one of the most influential managers in the world, if I could deal with it with him, no comment if it can't be dealt with here.
Oh, yeah, and Cahill retweeted that story.
It's no doubt that Cahill hasn't produced this season. He's got just two goals and two assists in 21 games this season, down -- considerably -- from the 11 goals and 5 assists he had last year. Part of that likely has to do with the fact he's playing further from goal than he was last season. But part of that, too, is that he's been jet setting all over the world to play with Australia, which is understandable for a guy who gets compared to Landon Donovan in terms of significance to his country, but also a little frustrating for Red Bulls fans.
Cahill does seem to acknowledge that it's been a difficult year, but seems to lay it at the feet of the coaching staff, rather than his play. Yeah, he's playing more central midfield this year, but he still scored goals from that positoin last year.
So, wonderful. Thierry Henry is reportedly out, Cahill is at odds with management and the Red Bulls are teetering on the edge of playoff contention. Exactly what needs to be happening now.