After making just thirteen appearances for the New York Red Bulls, Dwayne De Rosario is gone, traded down I-95 to DC United for former FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty. De Rosario didn't tear up the league during his brief time with New York, but McCarty hasn't made a huge impact this season either. Did the Red Bulls make the right call in swapping a proven winner for a solid player with potential?
The initial reaction of most Red Bulls fans -- after the shock that one of the team's best players had been traded wore off -- was probably not positive, a feeling that makes a lot of sense. De Rosario has been one of the best players in MLS over the past ten years and has won MLS Cup four times. Now, just three months after acquiring him, the Red Bulls had sent him down to New York's most hated rivals, and received a decent, but not great, younger player in return.
Not only does this trade seem to be better for DC in terms of the talent of each player, many Red Bulls fans thought that De Rosario would eventually evolve into the #10 that the club has needed for the last four seasons. While McCarty can provide some dangerous passes, he has nothing like the pedigree of De Rosario as an attacking midfielder. De Rosario can also score a fair few goals by himself, while McCarty rarely finds the back of the net. While De Rosario seemed to fill (or be able to fill after some adjustment) a role in the Red Bulls' team, McCarty looks more like another Joel Lindpere or Teemu Tainio than a new #10.
In spite of all this, the Red Bulls have not gotten rid of a great player in his prime without baggage, and nor have they received nothing in return. De Rosario is 33, and his form over the past few months indicates that he is clearly not the player he once was. Two goals and four assists is not a terrible return from thirteen appearances, but both of De Rosario's goals were penalties and he was invisible or peripheral in far too many games. Also, it seems likely that he would have demanded Designated Player status to continue with New York past the 2011 season, and the Red Bulls' front office was not willing to keep him for that price.
More importantly, Dax McCarty is no donkey. A right-footed, diminutive box-to-box midfielder with plenty of MLS experience, McCarty is probably not the Red Bulls' missing link, but he could become a key piece in New York's midfield. After spending three seasons learning Schellas Hyndman's possession game in Dallas, he can fit into a Red Bulls team that has been at its best when keeping the ball for long periods and picking the opposition apart. While he hasn't scored many goals throughout his career, McCarty should be able to fit into New York's lineup more easily than De Rosario, who seemed to be unsure of his role in the midst of so many other talented attackers.
McCarty spent five seasons down at Pizza Hut Park before moving to DC United over the winter, so FC Dallas fans have seen plenty of the Red Bulls new midfielder. Big D Soccer's Drew Epperly had this to say about McCarty:
Dax going to New York has to be a great move for his career. His role in D.C. never fit his style. He needs to be in a more possession-driven attack and New York has just that. Compared to De Rosario he is a bargin that won't be a headache in the locker room. New York got the better end of the deal as long as Dax remains healthy and finds a way to fit in Backe's formation.
That's a strong endorsement, and one that many Dallas fans probably share after McCarty was one of their most important players during FCD's run to the MLS Cup Final last year. Their extra-time loss in that game could push him to continue his growth in a team that has the talent to contend for multiple trophies.
New York also gains some valuable salary cap room. Toronto FC were on the hook for some of De Rosario's $425K pay package, but the Red Bulls would have been responsible for most of it. McCarty will only get $155K for the 2011 season, giving the New York front office some more money to work with should they want to bring in a new goalkeeper (which the Red Bulls clearly need) or a third designated player.
Overall, this isn't a perfect trade for either side, but each receives something that they probably needed. DC get an injection of attacking flair while offloading a player who just didn't fit into their system. The Red Bulls get a player who should fit into their system while moving a likely off-season transfer saga and a salary cap hit on to their biggest rivals.