Dax McCarty (left) battles the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips for the ball in the MLS knockout playoff game. (Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Some critics and observers might say that the Red Bulls’ troubles started prior to season last January when they dealt captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire in a blockbuster trade for $400,000 in allocation money Jan. 16.

That money might help build the team for the 2018 season and beyond, but Dax’s departure certainly did not help the team, which struggled to find a rhythm and play consistently through the season.

Not surprisingly, the deal was controversial. McCarty, who had just gotten married, discovered he was traded at U.S. national team camp in Carson, Calif.

“I didn’t think they handled the situation in a very classy way,” he said three weeks after the trade.

McCarty admitted he has experienced “a rollercoaster of emotion.”

He first took aim at the Red Bulls, particularly at head coach Jesse Marsch.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and a lot of time to try to measure on how I talk about the Red Bulls because it’s an organization I love,” he said. “The main part of my emotional side was the way they handled the trade, the way certain people handled the trade. I don’t think it was done in an appropriate way, especially for a club and a team that preaches family, a team that preaches togetherness and brotherhood and having each others’ backs. Trust is a big word that they use.”

Later in the interview, McCarty then got specific about who handled the deal — Marsch. In an interview with FourFourTwo, Marsch said that wished the circumstances of the trade were different.

“I don’t think that the trade and the way it happened honored the relationship that I had with Dax, and the relationship the club had with Dax, and that’s the unfortunate part,” he told writer Paul Tenorio. “When you look around the world when transfers are made, players have to agree to it and then there’s more control of what you do and where you go. Here it doesn’t work that way. That’s just the flat-out reality of our business …

“I wish the circumstances would’ve been different, everything from the timing around his wedding, to the manner in which it caught him by surprise,” Marsch said. “Yeah, I wish that there was a world we lived in that didn’t put him in that situation. I’ll take responsibility for it and I know that Dax harbors ill will about it and frustration, and I understand that. It’s an incredibly awful situation that he and I may never really have the relationship that we once had. As a coach, I value the relationship with my players, especially my most important ones, and I put a lot into my relationship with Dax and it saddens me, it truly saddens me. But professionally it was a decision as a club that we all felt we needed to make.”

Without McCarty, the Red Bulls hardly looked like the aggressive side that dominated opponents in 2015 and 2016. The team lacked cohesion and continuity, especially against superior opposition, particularly early on in the season.

Sean Davis was expected to be McCarty’s replacement, but he struggled as a defensive midfielder due to his attacking abilities. McCarty is a ball-winner who had the knack and experienced of being able to distribute the ball to the correct teammate quickly. Davis is better off as a midfielder who goes forward and one who doesn’t stay back.

Tyler Adams, 18, took over the role, as he showed much energy and potential with his aggressive two-way play. By the end of the season, Adams was forced to play at right wing back due to injuries and a formation change.

The Red Bulls enjoyed a superb run in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup, losing in the final to Sporting Kansas City, and booked the sixth and final playoff spot. They eliminated McCarty and the Fire in the knockout round before they were ousted in the Eastern Conference semifinals by eventual MLS Cup champion Toronto FC.

Monday: Story No. 5