Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By RYAN TOLMICH
After both figuratively and literally limping through the first half of the season, New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty finally stood tall.
With the Red Bulls down a goal to the New England Revolution, McCarty ignited the Red Bull Arena crowd with a spectacular equalizing chip from distance, leading the way to a 2-1 Red Bulls victory.
For McCarty, it was nice to finally make something look easy in a season that has been anything but.
Despite earning a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team to start the year, McCarty has become a lighting rod for criticism throughout the Red Bulls campaign. After spending years as a fan favorite, the 27-year-old has drawn the ire of fans and media alike after a dip in form stemming from an injury-plagued start to the season.
“My back was bothering me at the beginning of the season,” McCarty said after the victory over the Revs. “I didn’t know what it was.
“Two or three games in, I finally started to play a little bit better. Sporting KC comes around and I fractured my kneecap. That’s just something that you can’t control. It’s a mental battle. It’s tough coming back from an injury like that.”
McCarty’s struggles through injuries have been a source of frustration for both McCarty and Red Bulls fans alike. Although the midfielder was quick to point out how little he is bothered by outside criticism, McCarty is also aware of his struggles this season.
“Have I been my best this year? No,” McCarty said. “There’s no reason for it. I haven’t felt completely fit the whole season and that’s not an excuse, but I need to get back to full fitness in order to be able to do the things that make me successful.
“Do I hear criticism from the outside? Absolutely not. I listen to my coaches. I listen to my teammates. ”
For their part, McCarty’s teammates raved about the 27-year-old’s performance.
Forward Thierry Henry called McCarty’s chip a goal of the season candidate. Goalkeeper Luis Robles called the finish a catalyst for what was to come, while midfielder Tim Cahill pointed out just how important McCarty could be to the Red Bulls 2014 successes.
“For him, the goal was the icing on the cake,” Cahill said. “He’s a top player. (Saturday’s goal) gives him the confidence to take the next step and push this team to where we need to be up the table.”
For McCarty, who pointed out that both his knee and back are approaching the home stretch of recovery, the journey up the table is all that matters. Regardless of injury struggles, wonder-goals and fan criticism, McCarty knows that it’s time for both he and the rest of his Red Bulls teammates to live up to the expectations put forth by both the team and it’s fans.
“I’m glad when people expect that level out of me and the whole team,” McCarty said. “We’re New York Red Bulls. We won the Supporter’s Shield last year. It’s not good enough what we’ve been doing this year and they have every right to be critical and complain, and it’s on us to make it right.”