11717_isi_mccartydax_mlshcs110613101 Howard C. Smith/isiphotos.com
Major League Soccer

McCarty Move Hard to Take But Adds to Local Flavor

New York Red Bulls fan favorite Dax McCarty was sent packing Sunday, continuing the club's history of making unpopular moves. But there could be a silver lining among the storm of fan protests. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 17, 2017
9:10 AM

MORRISTOWN, N.J.—There is no question that the loss of Dax McCarty is a punch to the gut of New York Red Bulls fans. This is an organization that has had to endure an incredible amount of heartache over the years. In addition to never having won MLS Cup, the Red Bulls have witnessed unfortunate departures of so many fan favorites over the years, including Giovanni Savarese, Mike Petke, and Joel Lindpere.

When they lose a beloved player to Manchester United, Red Bulls/Metrostars fans begrudgingly accept it. That’s the nature of the sport. When they lose beloved players to New England, Chicago, or D.C. United, well that’s just cruel. But that is something that Red Bulls fans have to endure.

As a New Jersey native who was at Giants Stadium to watch Nicola Caricola hit the ball into his own net as the clock counted down to zero—remember those days?—I get the frustration over this trade.

McCarty was everything the fans of this team could want. He was there to lift two Supporters’ Shield trophies. He played with heart and soul and he connected so well to the team’s fans. After being acquired in an unpopular trade in which the Red Bulls lost Dwayne De Rosario, McCarty led by example and became one of the most accomplished and popular team players in franchise history.

And now he's gone, sold for $400,000 in allocation money, no doubt brought on by the team's need for financial flexibility under the league's salary cap.

If there is one way to put a positive spin on McCarty's departure, it's this: The club is now positioned to place even more emphasis on players from the New York/New Jersey area. One of the most endearing things about this club’s up-and-down history is that it really has found a way to bring out the best in players who have strong ties to the area.

As McCarty leaves, that hole will have to be filled by New Jerseyan Sean Davis, 23, and Wappingers Falls, N.Y., native Tyler Adams. As the Red Bulls will play in the CONCACAF Champions League (both in the spring and fall), the U.S. Open Cup, and league games, there will be a ton of minutes and both players will need to step up. The good news is that both are very exciting prospects. Davis would have been a starter for most MLS teams and Adams, 17, is a rising star with the United States U-20 national team.

Even more interesting, it's entirely possible (should Felipe have a night off) that the Red Bulls could have a five-man midfield featuring all local talent: Adams, Davis, Mike Grella (Glen Cove, N.Y.), Alex Muyl (Manhattan), and Sacha Kljestan. Yes, Kljestan is from California but he is also very much a product of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.. Throw in Conor Lade (Morristown, N.J.) at fullback and Brandon Allen (Old Bridge, N.J.) up top, and it would make for quite a New York metropolitan area event.

This is no one-off phenomenon: The Red Bulls/Metrostars have always had a strong connection with local players dating back to its founding. St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.) legend Tab Ramos became the first-ever player to sign with MLS when he joined the Metrostars in 1996 and he was soon followed by Kearny High School and U.S. national team vet Tony Meola. As the team has gotten better in recent years, the strong ties have only increased.

Mike Petke is perhaps the most iconic player and later coach in team history, and he too is from New York. Staten Island’s John Wolyniec is also extremely popular after three separate stints with the club, totaling 142 appearances. Like Petke, he got to retire as a Red Bull and now serves as the coach of Red Bull II which he led to the USL title in 2016.

National team players Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Matt Miazga were all born in the Garden State and began their professional careers with the club before heading to Europe and the United States national team. Juan Agudelo was born in Colombia but developed his game in New Jersey before becoming a Red Bull.

New Jersey-born Bob Bradley and Brooklyn-born Bruce Arena both coached here. And in typical fashion, both were fired—regrettably. U.S. World Cup veterans and local players Claudio Reyna and Edson Buddle also passed through the team.

Monday's news really symbolizes the two hallmarks of this club in that it is an unpopular ending to a popular figure's run with the team, and locals will continue to play a prominent role on the pitch.

That said, the move is a punch to the gut for fans. McCarty will be missed. He was a big reason why the team has enjoyed its best-ever run, he is the most popular player in team history from outside the New York metropolitan area, and he is leaving the Red Bulls in much better shape than when he arrived.

But you know what? While it is right for fans to miss him, it is entirely possible that this is the best thing for the team right now and in the years to come. If management believes they have gems in Davis and Adams, they need to get them on the field and not waste their best years. McCarty does get in the way of that because, frankly, he is unbenchable. 

If recent Red Bull history teaches us anything, it is that unpopular and difficult decisions have a way of working out. Not always, but this has been true in a few crucial decisions. Obviously trading away De Rosario brought McCarty. Firing Petke brought Jesse Marsch and an infamous angry town hall meeting for the ages. But last week when it appeared as if Marsch was leaving to take the Salzburg gig, fans had another collective outrage at the thought of losing him. 
McCarty will always have a great place in the history of this team. But I am eager to see what comes next. 

Share your take on the McCarty move below and be sure to follow Brian Sciaretta on Twitter

Post a comment