In the aftermath of the New York Red Bulls heart-wrenching aggregate loss to the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference playoff finals, there was at least one piece of good news: Dax McCarty told a gathered press, eager to relay something worth smiling about to the dejected fans filing out of Harrison, that RBNY had picked up his option for 2016.
Celebration! Captain Dax is back for another season. This was good news indeed. Until it wasn't.
Have been told by a knowledgable source that my transcription of Dax’s quote was incorrect. My apologies to all for gettin it wrong.— Dan Dickinson (@GothamistDan) November 30, 2015
Dax did in fact say it’s up to the club to pick up his option. #RBNY— Dan Dickinson (@GothamistDan) November 30, 2015
Listened to the audio multiple times (with others) to make sense of it but got it wrong. Won’t happen again. #RBNY— Dan Dickinson (@GothamistDan) November 30, 2015
Dax (corrected quote due to garbled audio): "I've got one year left on my contract, if they pick up my option." #RBNY— Russ McKenzie (@Russ_McKenzie) November 30, 2015
For a brief moment, it appeared we had something to celebrate for the long ride home after a deflating end to a good season. But it turns out the press corps' communal voice recorder was faulty.
If it was curious for McCarty to be announcing his contract renewal in the aftermath of the most difficult loss of the season, it is perhaps even more curious for him to be effectively calling attention to his uncertain future at that particular moment. Not least because his contract status was discussed at RBNY's last Town Hall meeting - so if there's no change, there's really no need to mention it at all. Unless...As noted by Franco Panizo, who apparently brought his own recording equipment to the game:
Asked McCarty about his future: "I have another year left on my deal, so long as they pick up my option." #RBNY— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) November 30, 2015
McCarty has been a key figure of this #RBNY team, but him not knowing if they are going to pick up his option is interesting.— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) November 30, 2015
I could see RBNY-McCarty divorce this offseason. His stock is as high as it's going 2 b. Would be unpopular but that hasn't stopped club b4.— Franco Panizo (@FrancoPanizo) November 30, 2015
What does it all mean? Mostly, it's a simple reminder that the season never really stops. The 2015 campaign has barely finished, and seamlessly we move on to thinking about the roster for 2016. So seamlessly, it turns out, that the speculation has started in earnest before Red Bull Arena had fully emptied after the last game of the year.
Dax's thoughts on his contract don't appear to have made it into the official video of his post-game comments:
As has already been pointed out, McCarty might be in line for MLS free agency, though his value to RBNY - as its captain or as an asset in a trade - would lead one to imagine his contract renewal should be one of the less remarkable events of the off-season. But the Red Bulls made some surprising decisions last year, and those decisions were largely vindicated by results on the field this season: bold and unexpected personnel moves may be destined to become the hallmark of the current era of RBNY history.