From a beat reporter’s perspective, Dax McCarty was everything you hope for: seemingly always available, always front and center, never one to mince words. His honesty was at times brutal, and that is not something you’ll hear anyone with a recording device at training complain about. His influence in the locker room and the training ground was obvious, and you can’t help but assume it extended also to the USL squad and NYRB II’s title-winning 2016.
And now he’s gone. New York Red Bulls’ Captain Dax has just been traded to the Chicago Fire for General Allocation Money in a deal worth $400,000 (to be paid over two seasons).
The trade was announced days after the Red Bulls’ off-season silence was broken by a wild rumor that suggested Jesse Marsch was getting yanked out of New York to coach RB Salzburg. That didn’t happen and it seemed RBNY would settle back into what has been a quiet break between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. That quiet time is over.
Trading Dax is a big move, both for the vacancy it creates in the squad and the resources - acquired and freed up - it makes available for new recruits. The immediate reaction is that there is another move to be made, maybe two. Certainly, we expect to see Sean Davis step into a bigger role in the starting lineup. Maybe we see a big-splash signing in the near future.
McCarty’s impact on the team isn’t best expressed by the usual statistics: he was a defensive midfielder for RBNY, and a leader. But some measure of his contribution is demonstrated by his appearance records: 169 MLS regular season games for RBNY (joint-most with Mike Petke); 163 of those games started (most MLS starts for RBNY); 14,381 MLS regular-season minutes played (RBNY’s record). Pretty much from his debut, in July 2011, he has been an ever-present on the team, and the fans’ appreciation of his work has grown accordingly.
Maybe the most surprising of his achievements for RBNY is that he never once received a red card. All those games (198 in all competitions) of his high-intensity, combative Daxness: not a single red for the redhead. He’s cool when he needs to be.
The Winter Park, Florida native leaves us with many highlights. How could we forget him on the field and taking on all comers, especially against former club D.C. United. He only played for DCU for four months, but he seemed to embody the rivalry between the teams - often giving the impression he wanted to beat his old employer more than any other opponent.
He had a surprising knack for a special goal, despite the fact his primary duty for five-and-a-half seasons was to channel the ball to superior attacking players like Thierry Henry, Peguy Luyindula, Lloyd Sam, Tim Cahill, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Sacha Kljestan.
Two of his more recent efforts were among my favorites. The header that was RBNY’s go-ahead goal against DCU in the 2015 playoffs:
And the opener to the 7-0 thrashing that was the highlight of RBNY’s 2016:
We know Dax enjoyed that one because at the start of the second half, he did it again:
Throw in the two Supporters’ Shields the club won during his time here, and there aren’t many Red Bulls who can look back on their tenure with the team with greater satisfaction.
And, of course, he wore the captain’s armband for his last two seasons with RBNY. His predecessor, Thierry Henry, is a big personality, an on-field leader, and one of the most accomplished players in history. But Dax seemed perfectly suited to the requirements of captaincy: we may miss Henry for all sorts of reasons, but the team did not want for leadership in his absence.
I will miss the Ginger Ninja. Miss his presence on the field and off.
Good luck to him in Chicago. When he makes his return to Red Bull Arena in 2017, he is due a big standing ovation from the home fans, his former teammates and head coach: few have given this team as much, and none have played for it more often with as much success as Captain Dax.