With quad healed, Red Bulls McCarty battles way back to fitness

(Image, New York Red Bulls website)

(Image, New York Red Bulls website)

If New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke asked Dax McCarty to run off of his couch and into the Montreal Impact match 10 days ago, he would have jumped at the chance.

“I was dying to get into Montreal,” McCarty joked.

It has been over two years since the Red Bulls’ midfielder was forced to sit out a match with injuries and the wait has proven a burden. The good news is he has fully participated in training this week and aims to be ready for the LA Galaxy match. However, while the quad injury is slowly becoming a thing of the past, other nagging issues have arisen that prevent McCarty from saying he is 100% ready for the field.

“I feel alright. Certainly not my normal self,” he admits. “My quad feels great – that’s the main thing. My quad has felt good for a few weeks now. It’s just other parts of my body that haven’t come along yet. I think that has to do with rehab, with being out for a while. Just little aches and pains.”

Those little aches and pains forced head coach Petke into a difficult decision; sitting out perhaps his most reliable midfielder.

“I am a little frustrated with not feeling like my fully fit self yet but certainly no major issues to complain about,” McCarty said. “I felt from a stand point of my quad injury, I felt like I was at least ready to be on the bench against Montreal and we waited. We waited another game and I was obviously disappointed not to play against New England. It was a good chance for me to get some minutes and contribute to the team. That was disappointing but for me, I need to make sure my body is definitely right.

“I know my quad is right,” he reiterated. “My back is certainly not feeling like it should. That’s something I need to take care of. I have a little bit of tightness in other muscles that don’t worry me too much. It’s just one of those things that you have to deal with as a player. For me, it’s a little frustrating but at the same time, I am training and I am hoping to get through a week of training without any problems. That’s the goal. If I have to play with a couple of casts on or whatever may be, I am going to do it.”

Having suffered a similar injury in 2010, McCarty knows what would happen if he attempted to push through the pain. He sat out two months with FC Dallas after making a hasty decision to return to the field.

Now, a matured and measured player, he is biding his time for the right moment – and so is Petke.

“I’m pretty sure he will be in the 18,” Petke said. “Whether what role he is going to play is going to be determined by this week; how he feels, how he looks. If he feels like he is game ready, if we feel like he is ready for a full 90, the last thing we want to do is to start a player that we are certain will not play 90 minutes. If that is the case, I’d rather have him come off the bench. I need players that can play 90 in case things happen.”

Will his time come against the LA Galaxy? That is yet to be determined.

“I know what it feels like when (the quad) is not right and it feels like it’s fully recovered,” McCarty said. “Now it’s a matter of getting all the little aches and pains away. Maybe it happens with some game time. I don’t know. I’m not sure what the ailments are.

“Someone said once no player is ever really playing 100% fit all the time. You will get 98, 99% but you will always have a little minor ailment. For me, it’s a matter of getting mentally past that and trying to contribute to the team as much as I can.”