The year is far from over, but as the Red Bulls clinched their postseason spot this weekend, Dax McCarty took a moment to reflect on his play in what has been a remarkable comeback season.
“It was a great bounce back year for myself but also the team,” McCarty told EoS. “I think we had one of our best seasons in the history (of the team) even though I think we were disappointed with some of the results where we thought we could play better.
“Look, I think as an athlete you kind of have to keep an even keel all throughout your career. Sometimes you are not going to play great. That’s how it goes sometimes. I try to be consistent in everything I do.”
Widely considered one of the team’s leading MVP candidates, the Red Bulls midfielder has been the image of consistency on a team which at times desperately needed stability. No matter where he has been placed or whom he partners with, McCarty has excelled. One need only look back to this weekend’s KC clash and his showing as a left midfielder (his first appearance there this season) to gauge his contributions.
After trying to escape the shadow of Dwayne De Rosario in 2011, McCarty has now firmly established himself as a leader on this team – and that is no small task.
“I think confidence plays a lot of a role in it. I feel confident,” he said. “My teammates believe in me, they have a lot of faith in me; the coaching staff has a lot of faith in me. You have to believe in your own ability, you have to carry a slight bit of arrogance in you because when things go bad, you are going to want to hide and that’s not what you want to do.
“Last year I was just a little inconsistent. I think our whole team was inconsistent. This year, I think we did a better job of making sure that the lows aren’t too low and the highs aren’t too high. We try to keep an even keel and I am a part of that. My consistency has been pretty good throughout the year. I have been lucky enough to stay healthy and that’s the key. I feel good, I feel fit.”
McCarty has missed one game all season long, scoring three goals and an assist in 32 performances. His contributions, however, go well beyond the stat sheet. Though his two way play in the midfield draws the most plaudits, he has been key in serving as a virtual third centerback for what has been a leaky Red Bulls defense all year round. His versatility has made him invaluable in a season plagued by injuries.
“I am old enough now where I can learn to shift my mentality,” he said. “Whether I am playing defensive mid, whether I am playing box to box, a little higher up the pitch or on either wing; it’s just a mentality switch. You have to make sure you are preparing for the game and whatever the position you are playing calls for, you have to be ready to do that.”
An MLS veteran at age 25, McCarty has displayed a growth, maturity and intelligence on and off the field which has earned him a key leadership position in the Red Bulls locker room – a complete 180 from where he was in 2011.
In a season that has seen so much tumult for New York, his growth as a player couldn’t have come at a better time, and with the loss of Lloyd Sam for the playoffs, he will surely be called upon again to shore up the situation.