It is unfortunate that Dax McCarty's ascension to an elite group of New York Red Bulls players coincided with one of the team's worst performances of 2015.
The RBNY captain became just the fourth player in team history to record 13,000 competitive minutes in all competitions during an abject outing in Chicago on August 26, 2015. The Red Bulls were second-best for most of the match, shipped three goals, and were spared the humiliation of a trouncing by finding the net twice themselves - but the 3-2 scoreline merely made a thoroughly deserved loss appear close.
So it was a match to forget for Captain Dax. But it is also a match that must be remembered, because it is the match in which he played his 13,000th competitive minute for RBNY. Only three other players in the history of the club have broken 13K minutes in all competitions for the first team: Mike Petke (16,561 minutes; 197 appearances), Dane Richards (13,413; 176), and Carlos Mendes (13,048; 166). McCarty has played alongside two of those players - Richards and Mendes - and been coached by the other (Petke).
Dax is now fourth all-time in minutes played in all competitions: 13,037. Assuming he starts against D.C. United on Sunday, August 30 - and he should, since he is fit and the team captain - he will move up to third on the list (passing Mendes) in the 12th minute of the match.
If you have watched this team since McCarty joined it in mid-2011, you have watched the gradual development of Red Bulls legend. He is sixth on the all-time games played list for the club - 154 in all competitions - and should become the fifth player to appear in 160 competitive matches for RBNY before the end of the 2015 regular season.
He is joint-third for all-time games started in all competitions, and can reasonably expect to be only the second player in club history to reach the landmark of 150 matches started. If he carries on playing every game, as expected, he'll finish this season second on the all-time, all-competitions minutes-played list too - surpassing Dane Richards during RBNY's game in Portland on September 20.
He is sixth all-time in league games played (133) and tied with Mendes for third all-time in league games started. He is fourth all-time in league minutes for RBNY - just eight games shy of becoming the second player in history to break 12,000 regular season minutes for the club. He is two matches short of being the team's all-time leader in playoff appearances.
If he stays with RBNY through next season, and his playing time does not drop off substantially, there is a strong likelihood McCarty will overtake Mike Petke as the club's all-time, all-competitions leader in every major appearance category.
But he is already the player with most appearances for RBNY since the team moved to Red Bull Arena. All three of the players above him on the all-time, all-competitions minutes played list logged substantial time for the club while it was still based at Giants Stadium.
Quite simply, if you have watched every minute of every game the Red Bulls have played since the 2010 season, you have seen more of Dax McCarty than any other player. That alone makes him a legend of the current era of team history. The fact he was part of the team that won the club's first major trophy - the 2013 Supporters' Shield - merely cements his reputation.
To mark the occasion of 13,000 minutes of Dax McCarty , Once A Metro thought it apt to take a look back at his RBNY career to date through the lens afforded by the games in which he hit the key minutes-played milestones on his way to 13K. In its own way, it charts the story of his time in Harrison so far.
Debut: July 2, 2011 - @ San Jose Earthquakes, 2-2
McCarty's first minute, first start, first full 90, and first point gained in MLS as a New York Red Bull. Joel Lindpere scored the first and the last goals in a 2-2 game that saw RBNY collect its 10th tie in just its 18th game of the MLS season. There would be a lot of ties for the Red Bulls in 2011: 16 in total by the end of the regular season - a league record until Chicago Fire raised the bar with 18 ties in 2014.
1,000th minute: September 24, 2011 - vs Portland Timbers, 2-0
Dax's 1,000th minute as a Red Bull arrived during his 13th appearance for the club. It was just the third win for the team since McCarty arrived. RBNY's indifferent form in the league had seen it slip out of the playoff places, and these three points put the Red Bulls back into a position to qualify for the post-season.
His 1,000th minute was the 24th minute of the game, three minutes after Dane Richards scored (set up by Joel Lindpere) to put RBNY on the way to the very-much needed victory.
RBNY would go on to claim the 10th and final playoff spot, beat FC Dallas in a play-in game and lose to LA Galaxy over two legs in the Western Conference semifinal (this was when MLS still played a balanced regular season schedule but had some wacky ideas about allocating teams to the post-season brackets).
McCarty finished the 2011 season with 1,298 minutes for RBNY from 18 appearances (16 regular season; two in the playoffs).
2,000th minute: April 28, 2012 - vs. New England Revolution, 1-0
2011 had been disappointing for RBNY: the team sputtered throughout the regular season, conspicuously failing to take advantage of the star signings of 2010, Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. And it wasn't a great surprise when a team that had never really figured itself out was downed in the playoffs by a team that had: LA Galaxy.
McCarty survived an off-season that saw the squad aggressively remodeled, but the opening games of the year offered only mixed signals about the new team's prospects in MLS. RBNY lost three (all on the road) of its first seven matches, but also won three on the back of a rejuvenated Henry, returned from a brief loan stint at his beloved Arsenal. (And Dax scored his first goal for RBNY during the season-opening run, against the same opponent he faced on his Red Bulls debut: San Jose.)
In the seventh minute of this game against the Revs, Henry scored again - his ninth goal in a six-game stretch dating back to the team's home-opener against Colorado - and then limped off injured in the 25th minute. Dax McCarty clocked his 2,000th minute toward the end of a match (minute 77) that left RBNY celebrating its fourth win in eight games but also wondering how long it would be without Henry and how it would fare in his absence.
3,000th minute: June 30, 2012 - @ Toronto FC, 1-1
Minute 3,000 came in the 63rd minute of a game that had been settled by tit-for-tat-goals in the opening 10 minutes. Henry's injury had, unexpectedly, inspired the team to a five-game winning streak. McCarty was ever-present in the starting lineup, including 205 minutes in the two games (one went to extra-time) it took for RBNY's traditional early exit from US Open Cup.
The USOC interlude appeared to have stalled the team. The winning streak in May had established the Red Bulls as an Eastern Conference contender, but June had brought a lull in form: this tie with Toronto meant RBNY would close out the month with just one win from four league matches.
4,000th minute: September 22, 2012 - vs New England Revolution, 1-1
The Red Bulls managed to stay in contention for the Eastern Conference, even a long shot at the Shield (though San Jose coasted home to the regular season title, picking up 10 points from its last six games as it focused largely on trying to get Chris Wondolowski to break the league's single-season scoring record).
Sadly, RBNY would finish six points short of the top of the East and nine points short of the Quakes' Shield-winning total (66). McCarty saw his 4,000th minute tick by in the 28th minute of the game that arguably truly stalled the Red Bulls' unlikely late-season charge.
RBNY had dropped three points at home in the preceding game to Sporting Kansas City, the team that would ultimately win the East .This trip to New England yielded an injury-time goal for Joel Lindpere: three points, ahoy! And an injury-time equalizer for Darrius Barnes: farewell, two points.
RBNY was left to contemplate just one point from two games and only four matches remaining in the regular season.
In the time since McCarty's 3,000th minute, the squad had been bolstered by the arrival of two goalkeepers (Bill Gaudette and Luis Robles), plus attacking reinforcements Sebastien Le Toux, Tim Cahill and Lloyd Sam. And Digao, Kaka's little brother. It was the last throw of the dice for Erik Soler and Hans Backe, desperately seeking firepower and momentum for the playoffs.
The team closed out the 2012 regular season with two wins in its last four games, then headed into a playoff series with D.C. United. There followed a hurricane, a snowstorm, and a penalty called back for encroachment. No MLS Cup, and the Viking era at Red Bull Arena was over. General Manager Erik Soler had been let go before the end of the regular season. Hans Backe had told the Swedish press he wasn't returning to Red Bull Arena for 2013 - and he was right. He departed shortly after RBNY's playoff exit.
The 2012 season remains the high-water mark in McCarty's RBNY career to date for competitive minutes. He logged 3,303 in all competitions, including 33 appearances in MLS (all starts) and starts in all the team's playoff and USOC games. He also scored three goals and tallied three assists in his first full season as a Red Bull, to add to the four assists he got in 2011.
He closed out 2012 on a total of 4,601 career minutes played for RBNY. He was an established member of the core squad. But, like every other Red Bull and MetroStar in the team's history at that moment, he had no trophies to show for his service to the club.
5,000th minute: March 30, 2013 - vs Philadelphia Union, 2-1
He scored! In the 55th minute - barely a quarter of an hour after he'd played his 5,000th minute for RBNY - Dax McCarty scored his fourth career goal for the New York Red Bulls.
Bu the goal had greater significance.
The club had seen yet another turbulent off-season leading into MLS 2013. RBNY had once again overhauled its squad, this time because of a new era: Erik Soler was replaced by Andy Roxburgh, and he in turn appointed a new coach - Mike Petke. The new head coach had no prior experience managing a professional soccer team, though he remains RBNY's record-holder for appearances and competitive minutes. He was handed a star-studded squad: not just Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, but also Juninho Pernambucano, Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave, and Peguy Luyindula (who arrived in mid-March). With this group, Petke managed to deliver two starkly different tactical approaches and no wins in his opening four games of the 2013 season.
This game, at home to Philadelphia, was the team's fifth under Petke. McCarty's goal helped the team toward its first win for the new head coach. The Petke era would survive at least it first month.
6,000th minute: July 13, 2013 - vs. Montreal Impact, 4-0
Injury held McCarty out of the lineup for a few games, pushing the occasion of his 6,000th minute to the second half of another significant game in RBNY's 2013 season.
After 19 regular season games under Mike Petke, the Red Bulls had won eight, drawn four and lost seven. They were an average sort of team, clinging to a winning record after losing three of their preceding four games. Montreal, conversely, had won nine and lost just four of its opening 17 games of the season: L'Impact had swagger, though it had won just once in its previous five outings.
And the Red Bulls trounced the top-of-the-East Impact. Four goals were shared by Eric Alexander, Henry, Cahill and Luyindula (this was the game in which captain Henry handed Luyindula the ball to take a late and irrelevant-to-the-result penalty, thereby allowing Peguy to score his first goal for RBNY). It was a commanding performance that offered some hope that the team's recent difficulties might be overcome, and some consistency and fluidity might yet be found under its rookie head coach.
7,000th minute: September 29, 2013 - @ Seattle Sounders, 1-1
By the end of September, 2013, the Red Bulls were unlikely contenders for the Supporters' Shield. A scrappy, streaky team stubbornly invested in unfashionable tactics (Petke decided early that 4-4-2 was the best way to make sense of the tools he had thrust at him at the beginning of the season when he was the only first team coach in the club's employ and there was a preseason to get started on).
The win over Montreal sparked a four-game unbeaten streak, then three matches without a win, and then four consecutive victories to haul RBNY to the top of the Shield race by a single point. The closest rival - Seattle - had two games in hand.
This was supposed to be the game that the Red Bulls got put back in their place. McCarty's 7,000th minute occurred just three minutes before the Sounders took the lead with a penalty at the end of the first half. All was as expected. RBNY had no Henry or Jamison Olave (neither could be risked on Seattle's unforgiving turf), and Seattle would surely kick on after the break to clinch the game and surge to the top of the standings.
It didn't work out that way. Cahill equalized in the 76th minute. The Red Bulls held on for the draw, keeping their remote prospects of lifting the regular season trophy alive a little longer.
The rest of 2013 is RBNY history. No one would have guessed it at the time, but the Sounders were destined to plummet out of the Shield race: the draw with the Red Bulls was followed by four consecutive losses. Seattle got one point from its last five games, after having lost just one of the preceding 12.
Dax McCarty may remember the last three games of the 2013 regular season for the rest of his career: the 97th-minute Cahill equalizer that salvaged a point at Red Bull Arena against the Revs; his pass in Houston to set Cahill up for the fastest goal in MLS history and the team for a 3-0 road win; the 5-2 win over Chicago Fire that capped the season with the Supporters' Shield.
McCarty was part of the team that lifted RBNY's first ever trophy. The Red Bulls didn't last long in the ensuing playoffs - losing to Houston in their opening series of the post-season - but it didn't really matter: the club finally had a use for a trophy cabinet. And Dax McCarty helped to make that happen.
Dax finished 2013 with 7,528 minutes for RBNY under his belt, and one Supporters' Shield.
8,000th minute: April 12, 2014 - @ D.C. United, 0-1
The 8,000th competitive minute of McCarty's career as a Red Bull arrived in the second half of the sixth game of a hellish start to the 2014 regular season. RBNY kicked off the new year in MLS as the reigning Shield holder, and stepped right into a protracted slump: a 4-1 loss in Vancouver to start the season; three penalties conceded in the first four games; a string of frustrating ties followed by this deflating loss to D.C. United.
Any loss to DC is an irritation. This loss - at a time when DCU was still mostly remembered for its epically bad 2013 and the Red Bulls were the mostly comprised of the same players who had been the best team in the league at the end of the prior season - was more painful than usual.
Just as they had done in their first year under Petke, the Red Bulls were starting the season with a crisis.
9,000th minute: July 30, 2014 - @ Real Salt Lake, 1-1
The season that had started so badly had not improved a great deal by the time Dax's 9,000th minute for RBNY arrived. This tie in Utah left the Red Bulls outside the playoff places in the Eastern Conference with just 13 games left to play in the regular season.
After 20 games or so, one begins to believe one has the measure of a team. After 21 league games in 2014, the Red Bulls looked ordinary: just five wins, six losses and 10 draws. It was going to take a big turnaround in form for RBNY to make the playoffs, and the thought of winning another Shield was, at best, a delusion.
Still, 9,000 minutes for RBNY is a landmark: only 16 players have reached that total, and McCarty was the 15th of them (the most recent man to cross 9,000 competitive minutes for the club is Luis Robles).
His achievement was marked by Thierry Henry, who scored his 47th goal of all-time for RBNY - and the equalizer in this game - in the 57th minute: the 9,000th of McCarty's Red Bull career.
10,000th minute: October 4, 2014 - vs. Houston Dynamo, 1-0
RBNY's struggles persisted through August, but the team's cussedness, a glut of home games, and a tactical adjustment combined to see it win eight of its last 13 matches and finish fourth in the Eastern Conference.
This narrow, late-season win over Houston was important because it was immediately after the Red Bulls had suffered a thrashing in LA. Bouncing back to claim three points set up a three-wins-in-four-games run that saw RBNY into the playoffs with momentum.
Dax McCarty became one of just 12 players to reach 10,000 competitive minutes for the club in the 79th minute. He didn't know it at the time, but in the 47th minute he witnessed Thierry Henry's last goal for the New York Red Bulls.
Dax finished the 2104 season with 10,720 competitive minutes for RBNY to his name. The season also concluded with the Red Bulls' best playoff run since its run to the MLS Cup final in 2008, and its best since moving to Red Bull Arena. Harrison finally got to witness more than one playoff series in a post-season. It was frustrating to lose the Eastern Conference final to New England by the odd goal in five, but ultimately the team could look back on 2014 with some satisfaction: it had recovered from an awful start to stage a thrilling finish; Bradley Wright-Phillips had emerged as one of the all-time great goal scorers in club, and league, history; there was a sense that, paired with the triumph of 2013, RBNY might be heading into an era of sustained success.
And then the era ended. Thierry Henry retired. Andy Roxburgh departed. Mike Petke was fired. The presumptive heir to Henry's role as team captain, the increasingly recalcitrant Tim Cahill, also left during an unexpectedly tumultuous off-season.
A new era - of team-first tactics and lower-budget acquisitions - was started. The man picked to bridge the success of the team's recent past with its uncertain future was Dax McCarty. He was named club captain just two days before RBNY kicked off its first season under Ali Curtis and Jesse Marsch.
11,000th minute: April 11, 2015 - @ D.C. United, 2-2
By the standards to which he had become accustomed, in 2015 RBNY got off to a hot start for the first time in McCarty's tenure at the club. His 11,000th competitive minute for the team arrived in his fourth match as captain: the Red Bulls salvaged a draw in DC with a late equalizer, preserving an unbeaten record under McCarty's on-field leadership.
The unbeaten streak would last until the team's eighth league game of 2015, and that was sufficient to allow the club to recapture some of the enthusiasm and momentum it had jettisoned during the off-season.
12,000th minute: June 20, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-2
Perhaps it is fitting that McCarty became just the eighth player in RBNY history to register 12,000 minutes for the club at the lowest moment of the team's season to date.
This loss to Vancouver was almost comically frustrating: Sacha Kljestan, the biggest-name signing of the off-season, was sent off in the 11th minute; Bradley Wright-Phillips, arguably the most efficient goal scorer the club has ever known, missed two penalties in the match; and the game stayed close - the Red Bulls ultimately lost by only one goal. And it was at home.
It was RBNY's fourth consecutive loss in the league after opening the season with just one defeat in its first 10 games. It was the first serious test of the team's mettle under Jesse Marsch's coaching and McCarty's captaincy.
13,000: August 26, 2015 - @ Chicago Fire, 2-3
Another milestone minute experienced in one of the more disappointing moments of RBNY's 2015 season to date. Whatever else happens this year, this game will largely be remembered for that goal: the Red Bulls' trick play deemed (incorrectly) illegal by a rash and hasty Professional Referee Organization apparently keen to raise its profile by trashing its own officials during match broadcasts.
It was a bad match for the Red Bulls, who couldn't string passes together and got hustled off the ball too easily by the Fire.
This can rightly be regarded as another testing moment in the season. If the first 10 games of the league campaign were pretty good for RBNY, the most recent 10-game stretch has been excellent. The Red Bulls gathered 17 points from their opening 10 matches of the 2015 regular season; including the loss to Chicago, they have 22 points from their last 10 league games.
Between them, those 20 matches account for all 39 points the Red Bulls have in MLS at the moment. The other four games RBNY has played are the four straight losses, culminating in that loss to Vancouver. The losing streak sits between the two successful 10-game runs as a reminder that there is a fine line between a good season and a bad one. The question now is whether the team is heading into another slump, or will return to the exceptional form it has enjoyed pretty much since losing to the Whitecaps in June.
Currently, the Red Bulls' record after 24 games (39 points; 11 wins seven losses and six draws) lags two points behind the club's 2012 record (41 points; 12 wins, seven losses and five draws) at the same stage of the regular season.
In 2012, RBNY finished third in the East with 57 points and was bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by D.C. United. Third in the East and an early playoff exit should probably be regarded as fair achievement given the circumstances of the off-season, but the team has come so far, so fast that it would more likely be considered an underwhelming end to the year if that's all this side has to show for its work in 2015.
This is a different year: 57 points might win the Shield in 2015, since no team has yet asserted itself as capable of leading a charge past 60 points - the traditional threshold for a regular season title. Not for the first time in his RBNY career, McCarty is in the thick of a title race.
The other men to pass 13,000 minutes of playing time for RBNY did so as their careers at the club were winding down. Mike Petke reached 13K in 2002, and was promptly traded to D.C. United, returning only in 2009 - a year before he retired as a player. Carlos Mendes was cut from the roster at the end of the 2011 season, the same year he hit 13K. Dane Richards reached 13K in 2012, the year he too left the team (he returned this season, but is on loan to NASL's Indy Eleven at the moment).
If McCarty sticks with RBNY past this year, he'll be the first player not to leave the club immediately after or during the season in which he reached the 13K-minute milestone. And it is to be hoped he stays, because he is more important to the team than at any prior stage of his career here: not just the captain, but also a vital pivot on which the current tactical plan relies to transition from defense to attack.
The first 13,000 minutes of his career as a Red Bull have established his legend. The minutes he plays after this milestone - as club captain and tactical lynchpin - will establish his legacy.
Congratulations, Dax. Here's hoping for 13,000 more minutes of you in a Red Bulls jersey - and many, many more trophies.