Dax McCarty has been an important part of the Chicago Fire’s revival this season. (Scott Kane/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
While the Red Bulls went down in flames to New York City FC at Red Bull Arena for the first time in the Hudson River Derby Saturday, a former teammate helped the Chicago Fire to its seventh consecutive home victory.
Former Red Bulls skipper and midfielder Dax McCarty, traded by the Major League Soccer team in the offseason, captained the Fire and played the entire 90 minutes in a 4-0 victory over Orlando City SC at Toyota Stadium.
David Accam led the way with a hat-trick, but his teammates acknowledged it was more than a one-man show.
The victory kept Chicago (10-3-4, 34 points) in second place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind leader Toronto FC. On the heels of their 2-0 defeat to NYCFC, the Red Bulls (7-8-2, 23) fell into seventh place, out of a playoff position. New York has not failed to reach the postseason in eight years, since the 2009 season.
Defender Matt Polster said that midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and McCarty were vital to the Fire’s success this season.
“Those players are key factors, but I think the biggest thing is just experience,” he told reporters afterwards. “Those guys bring a lot of experience to the team. They brought different ideas and led. Even though I’m kind of the veteran in terms of being here longer than they have, Dax has been in the league for a long time and he knows how to win, and Basti obviously knows how to win at the highest level. Those kind of players with that experience really help this team.”
The Red Bulls’ decision to trade McCarty for $400,000 in allocation money in January was a controversial deal, to say the least. McCarty was stunned by it and leveled much criticism towards head coach Jesse Marsch. Ali Curtis, then the sporting director, wanted to trade midfielder Felipe instead. Marsch, however, won the power struggle and Curtis was forced out of his position and left the team. Denis Hamlett took over as sporting director.
New York has yet to replace McCarty’s experience and vision at the defensive midfielder spot. Tyler Adams, 18, who impressed for the United States at the FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this month, has shown great energy and potential. But he is a different type of holding midfielder than McCarty, who had the ability to win the ball and find a teammate for a quick outlet pass that would start a counterattack.
Sean Davis, who also has played that role for the Red Bulls this season, has been a disappointment and hasn’t performed well there consistently enough.
Who knows? Perhaps the trade will work out in the long run and Adams will become a dominant defensive midfielder and the Red Bulls will right themselves. But for now, it is not looking good at all for that RBA side.
Incidentally, the Red Bulls will visit McCarty and the Fire Sept. 9.