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McCarty leading a depleted Red Bulls side to victory



In times of great need, unlikely heroes emerge.  For the New York Red Bulls, Dax McCarty has proudly carried the mantle of leadership in the face of daunting odds.

“I feel good. I definitely feel like I’m starting to play like I was in Dallas a few years ago when we made that MLS Cup run,” McCarty told reporters after New York’s 1-0 shutout of the Houston Dynamo. 

“It’s just about being comfortable. I’m more comfortable with the guys; I’m more comfortable with the team, the coaches, everything about it. Credit goes to the guys on the team for knowing my tendencies, and it’s just about learning what the guys are all about. I just have confidence and I think our whole team is starting to gain confidence with each win.”

New York is riding a three game winning streak, including 270 minutes of shutout soccer, in spite of recent injuries and suspensions that have decimated the side.  Team captain and leading scorer Thierry Henry tops the list of the wounded which includes Wilman Conde, Teemu Tainio, Roy Miller, Stephen Keel, Jan Gunnar Solli, and Juan Agudelo. A three game suspension to Designated Player Rafa Marquez only exacerbated matters.

In their absence, McCarty has become an all purpose general on the pitch. Traditionally a transitional two-way player, Dax has been forced to adjust his game to a more physical, central defensive role.  The change has been vital to keeping the team competitive, and McCarty has relished the challenge.

“When you’re (a defensive midfielder), there’s no way you can get away with being soft, there’s no way you can get away with letting guys get by you easily,” he said.  “That’s something I definitely enjoy.”

The American midfielder has surprised many with his ability to get stuck in on opposing attackers.  “I love doing that stuff,” he said.  “It’s not something you get to do that often when you’re higher up the field.”

“No matter where I am on the field, I’m going to definitely try to bring that element.  If I can get stuck in some defenders, I’ll try to do that,” he remarked with a smile.  “Dish out a little punishment that they give.”

His play has made him a vital leader for a makeshift backline and their rookie goalkeeper. 

“He’s been huge for us the past three games – really all season but especially the past three games with a bunch of our guys out,” goalkeeper Ryan Meara observed.  “Ninety minutes – he brings it.  He runs and runs and it helps the back four out so much because it cuts off so much service to their forwards. Again today, he was great.”

Center back Markus Holgersson, who captained the Red Bulls once again on Wednesday, agreed.

“He’s a good player and that’s a good position for him,” he said.

“I’m a versatile guy,” McCarty said.  “I think I can adjust to whatever positions I need to play. If that’s my position from here on out, I’ll make it my own and continue to help the guys on defense.”

Though he has excelled as a defensive midfielder, his long term prospects at the position are questionable with a returning Rafa Marquez ready to rejoin the side.

“I don’t think it’s been discussed,” McCarty said when asked about his future after Marquez returns with the team. “Whatever Hans sees for the team, I think it’s really based on our opponent and who we are playing. I think Hans knows that with myself and with Rafa, we are both pretty versatile players. Wherever he sees me going forward with Rafa, we haven’t spoken about it.  Once everyone’s fully healthy, we will discuss that more.”

Until that time comes, McCarty continues to relish his role as a team leader. 

“Look, let’s give ourselves a lot of credit for having great character and pulling these games out, but we’re not going to continue to hang on to these 1-0 leads. We need to start putting teams to the sword a little bit earlier and we need to get that second goal. But look, for a young backline and a young goalkeeper, three 1-0 wins – you can’t get much better than that.”


  1. Seems like injuries and suspensions have forced Backe to put together a lineup he should have seen quite some time ago, no? He’s the boss on a major league team and should know how to select and manage his personnel – technically it’s the only thing he really is responsible for, at least on game days.

    I’ve been a NYRB fan for some time now, but Backe has me thinking that his success has always been fortuitous, and not based on his abilities alone.

    Frustrating. Glad to see the youngsters notch three 1-0 matches though, as Dax said that is awesome to see (despite the desire to get more goals).

  2. dax almost drop a 35 yarder against egypt… but i think you are overlooking a quality player that does the essentials well (i.e. what you want in your DM)

  3. The USMNT? So since the Beckerman experiment has been fruitless, we’ll try someone with even less quality? Dax is a fine player, but let’s not get carried away.

  4. There shouldn’t be any questioning Dax at this point. His outstanding play should allow him to keep his starting job. I do not see how Backe can insert Marquez back into the line up. Make Marquez compete for the job. I would, however, be ok allowing Tainio back into the holding midfield and pushing Dax up to a more offensive minded central midfielder. Move Joel to left and keep Dane on the right.

    Keep the back line the same and make Miller compete as well.

  5. NYRB shouldn’t be above having a true destroyer.

    Dax isn’t good enough to be the linking mid he thinks he is, and NYRB doesn’t have another player with the motor or the selflessness to relentlessly break up plays the way Dax does.

    Calls out for a 4-1-3-2.

  6. I agree. Solli is more valuable as a wide right MF than as a RB, especially given the emergence of Barklage. McCarty has done everything that’s been asked of him, and more. Backe as some tough choices to make. One could argue that Tainio should replace McCarty, but if Lindpere plays in the central attacking role, do you keep Marquez on the bench? And isn’t it weird to be talking about whether McCarty, Tainio, and McCarty all sit above Rafa Marquez on the midfield depth chart?

  7. I think it’s an exaggeration to say Dax is leading the team at this point, but I agree that he is beginning to grow on me. His skill level is really pretty average and he’s not particularly fast or strong on the ball, but his work rate is very good and he’s got a feisty quality that’s good for the team.

  8. And Houston has a stadium pylon dedicated to that joker. What they see in Ashe I dont know. I never liked him as a player and he hasn’t improved much.

  9. I think he’s picking up on some of Tainio’s style, which is great for NY and actually pretty good for the US MNT, if Dax should get the call again. Having good destroyers on a team, who can also link the lines, is very important.

  10. Hopefully Backe doesnt go and blow everything up once Henry, Tainio, and Marquez are back. Henry obviously walks back into the team but Dax is showing that the DM spot is his for the taking right now and Tainio/Marquez shouldn’t feel they can take it back easily.

    Keep Lindpere center, Solli out wide, Dax as DM, and Barklage at right back. I’ve also been liking Lade a lot at LB so Miller shouldn’t expect his spot back either. I’m sure there will be plenty of mistakes and miss steps by these players in the future but it would be nice if Backe gives faith to a group of reserve players that have proven they can help this team past just being training cones in practice. If they can’t stand up to the pressure or the vets are 100% and looking good in practice then don’t fix it till its broken.

  11. It’s funny – as a NYRB fan, I have hated Dax from afar for numerous reasons…predictable, boring play coupled with whining after most fouls. however, his hard work ethic is beginning to win me over

  12. While I’m deliriously happy with the latest Red Bull results, these nail-biting 1-0 games are torture. As Dax said, the team needs to score more goals and they need to do it without Henry. Juan looked creative and active yesterday. I hope he starts on Sunday and we score more than one goal.


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