There were few players as important to the team’s success in 2012 as Dax McCarty, so his absence was duly noted this week during Desert Diamond Cup action.
The stalwart two way midfielder missed both the Sounders and New England matches with tightness in his right hamstring.
As the preseason came to a close ahead of Saturday’s match against the Revolution, McCarty knew his time was short to get some in-game action. His teammate Eric Alexander was doing well in his absence alongside Tim Cahill only adding to the pressure to return.
“I think that Eric Alexander has been pushing him a little bit, watching Eric play,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said. “Eric has made some mistakes here and there, but he has worked hard for us and Dax is eager to get back on that field and I think that was good for him.”
Despite not being 100%, McCarty pleaded with Petke to get some meaningful minutes in the match.
Once granted the time, he didn’t disappoint.
“Dax surprised me today,” Petke said. “He hasn’t done anything in a couple of days, maybe three, four days. I made sure, I said “You sure you can do 30?” He said “I want to play.” I put him on and he was buzzing. He was a big link for us, he was all over the place.”
McCarty is expected to be an important part of Petke’s new look offense. Paired with Cahill, the duo will play a give and take role, linking the backline to the new look offense. The presumed starting duo will be backed by Alexander and Ian Christianson.
“It’s only preseason,” Cahill remarked. “Next week is where it really counts.
“You always want to win games but I suppose a lot of new players are gelling. In the end, I still think we were the better team but it wasn’t about the result today. For us, it was good fitness.
“I was just pleased to get through the game unscathed.”
And that is a sentiment McCarty will likely agree with.