MLS Features: Cahill signing makes N.Y. MLS Cup favorite

Major League Soccer's rich keep getting richer.

Teams situated in large media markets always have the ability to flex their financial muscles and splash on new, high-profile signings. That was evident last week when Red Bull New York announced the arrival of Australian international and former English Premier League standout Tim Cahill, an acquisition that catapults the club to the forefront of the shortlist for MLS Cup favorites.

Cahill, who was unveiled to the media on Monday, joined the company of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez by signing with New York as a Designated Player.

The Aussie carved out an impressive career in England, coming up through the Millwall ranks before making the switch to Everton in 2004.

Cahill flourished in eight seasons with the Toffees, logging 278 appearances and scoring 68 goals across all competitions. He was named Everton's Player of the Season in his first year at Goodison Park after finishing the campaign as the club's leading scorer, and he was nominated for the Ballon D'Or in 2006, given to the European Footballer of the Year.

"As a footballer, I suppose I've achieved a hell of a lot in my career," Cahill said Monday. "But I feel that this is a big move for me. A lot of people might think otherwise, but I'm 32 years old, I respect the MLS, I'm coming here at a good age, I'm fit.

"I'm ready for a new challenge and that's something that's very special for not only me, but also for my family."

Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe touted the coup as a big one, saying that Cahill would serve as a link between midfield and attack while providing the option to be deployed in a couple of different positions.

"It's a great, great signing for us," Backe said. "Being European, of course I've seen Tim for many, many years with Everton and also Millwall. We get a player who is quite versatile - he can play as a second striker, he can be a central midfielder, playing box-to-box. You can be sure that he is a guy who will always give 100 percent."

At his ripe age, Cahill still has plenty to offer to a competitive side in the Premier League. Several clubs recognized that - Backe revealed that the Australian had numerous offers to stay in England, though he did not disclose which clubs made offers.

"I thought he was a guy who would stay in the Premiership," Backe said. "He had offers from other Premiership clubs. ... I was a little bit surprised [that he signed for N.Y.] because I know [of] the clubs he had offers from to stay in the Premiership. I was just happy he said yes that quickly."

Any lingering doubt regarding Cahill's fitness levels and abilities to compete at a high level were put to rest on Tuesday.

New York hosted English Premier League side Tottenham at Red Bull Arena, and Cahill made his Red Bulls debut by playing the entire first half against Spurs, which finished the 2011-12 EPL season in fourth place.

It didn't take long for the newcomer to make a positive impact as he made a surging run through the middle of the park to latch on to a through ball from Dax McCarty in the seventh minute. Cahill was through on goal but was barged into by Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen, earning a penalty for the Red Bulls that Kenny Cooper calmly converted.

It was the type of run that exemplified the experience that Cahill can bring to the Red Bulls; he saw space in behind the defense and exploited it to create a goal, albeit one that he himself did not finish.

Backe is banking on that experience serving as one of the deciding factors in the race for MLS Cup this season.

"Most of the teams in this league are a little inconsistent," Backe said Monday. "I think with Tim's signing, we will have a central midfield and hopefully then a team that can be more consistent.

"Even if we're still winning the Eastern Conference, it's up to us and in our hands if we want to win [MLS Cup] this year. We definitely have the talent for it. The experience Tim has from the Premier League and the World Cup games, it's massive for us."

No team needs an MLS Cup triumph more than New York, a club that has made just one appearance in the title match.

The Red Bulls are joined only by the New England Revolution and FC Dallas as original MLS clubs that have failed to win an MLS Cup - New England and Dallas have claimed one U.S. Open Cup apiece, but New York has never won a major trophy.

Last term, the Los Angeles Galaxy added Robbie Keane as a midseason Designated Player and an MLS Cup was the result.

This season, the Red Bulls hope that the addition of Tim Cahill will yield a similar outcome.