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New York Red Bulls are prepared for Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire

Saturday will be the first time Dax McCarty will be at Red Bull Arena since he was traded to the Fire.

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We all know professional sports is a business and at times the business of professional sports leads to some tough decisions. New York Red Bulls fans haven’t really been allowed to forget that in recent seasons, as the club has made a succession of decisions that saw fan favorites cast aside. The latest of those decisions: Dax McCarty sent to the Chicago Fire in a trade so abrupt it caught even the former RBNY captain by surprise.

“It was a tough thing to do from an emotional standpoint, but a thing we were clear on as an organization that we needed to do,” said Jesse Marsch to reporters after RBNY’s training session on Thursday, April 27.

Marsch and the rest of the Red Bulls are well aware that April 29 will see ex-captain Dax return to Red Bull Arena for the first time since he was traded away: “We did circle the date on the calendar as it’s time to appreciate what Dax did here, along with the fans appreciating him as well.”

“For Dax to see the people who meant a lot to him - this is a great club as one day we will miss the fans when we leave this great club. One day, we will all miss being here when we have to leave because it is a great place. We want him to appreciate the day, we want to appreciate him - but at the end of the day we are looking to get the three points,” said Marsch.

McCarty’s trade was part of a series of acquisitions that have re-booted the Fire and helped the team get off to a solid start to 2017 after a succession of disappointing years. The wider world of soccer is a little more aware of the Fire since the team added Bastian Schweinster to its roster. The upcoming game against RBNY might be the only one this season where McCarty is a bigger story than the World Cup winner with whom he shares a midfield. The Red Bulls are aware there is more to Chicago than the man on the Fire’s roster they know best.

“Chicago has always posed us a problem in the past couple of years, even when they’ve kinda been at the bottom of the table. A combination of maybe us taking them a little bit lightly, and secondly, losing balls in the midfield and them hitting us on the counter attack. Accam obviously is a very dangerous player, probably their most important on the counter-attack. And then when you add Dax and Schweinsteiger in there, you get two guys who are really good on the ball in the midfield,” Sacha Kljestan said at RBNY training.

“And we can see the way they play now since Dax and Schweinsteiger have started playing together is that the two of them and Juninho, they all want the ball a lot, they want to pass a lot. So for us how good can we press them how many time can we turn them over in the midfield and turn those into chances,” noted the RBNY captain.

The Fire is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, which is a significant improvement for a team that has spent a lot of time at or near the bottom of the table in recent years. So far in 2017, head coach Veljko Paunovic appears to be pushing the right buttons to get his remodeled squad to deliver positive results.

Alex Muyl has been pushing the right buttons with regard to his personal form. He has scored in RBNY’s last two games, challenging the perception that he is more workhorse than show pony. For Muyl, who sees himself play every day, the change is perhaps not as significant:

“I think I have been doing the same things I have been doing since being here. At times I haven’t scored them when I had good chances,” he said. “When the moments do come, I will put them away. I don’t really want to change my style, but I do want to grow to become a better player.”

The game against the Fire will be the final match of a three-game home stand, and will be followed by a two-match week on the road - first at Sporting Kansas City, then to Philadelphia to face the struggling Union - before the team heads back to Red Bull Arena for three more matches, against the Galaxy, Toronto FC, and then the New England Revolution.

Each of those games will bring its own challenge, but first the team must face down its former captain. McCarty is a tough and emotional player, and his presence at the center of this game will likely see those qualities influence the match.

He’s the Fire’s man now. Both he and RBNY will be a little further moved on from each other at the end of 90 minutes. But the memories of his days as a Red Bull are too be enjoyed for a long time to come. For those memories: Captain Dax, welcome back home - hope you’re doing well. But not so well to prevent RBNY getting three points on Saturday, April 29.