Red Bulls deal De Rosario to DC for McCarty in stunner

NEW YORK — The New York Red Bulls abruptly parted ways with veteran Dwayne De Rosario on Monday, dealing the five-time MLS Best XI selection to rivals D.C. United for midfielder Dax McCarty.

De Rosario was traded to New York from Toronto FC on April 1 to fill the Red Bulls’ missing playmaker role, but he failed to mirror the offensive numbers he’d amassed in years past for Houston and Toronto FC.

Although not necessarily relied upon for the same offensive output as in years past — Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry is tied for the league lead with eight goals and Luke Rodgers has five this season — De Rosario has struggled to make an impression on a team where he’s not the main attacking option.

He scored two goals and added four assists in 13 games through the Red Bulls’ 1-1 draw against Chicago on Sunday, mostly logging time in the team’s attacking midfielder role. He was dealt to New York after one of his best offensive seasons last year in Toronto, when he scored a career-high 15 goals and added three assists.

“Today, we signed one of the best players MLS has ever seen in Dwayne De Rosario,” D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen said in a statement. “In order to gain a quality piece, we gave up a quality player in Dax McCarty, but we feel that De Rosario is a game-changer that will help us in our push for playoffs.”

The deal comes at the end of a frustrating road swing for the Red Bulls, who picked up just two points in three games and lost their grip on the top spot in the Eastern Conference to the Philadelphia Union. De Rosario played at forward for two of those games.

“Coming into this team, I don’t have to over-exert myself to carry more of a load than I should,” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com in April. “As you saw in training, we’re very competitive here and we’re all pushing each other. My job is to be that final link, to create opportunities for the forwards, for others pushing into the attack. That’s what I like to do, and that is what coach wants me to do.”

McCarty, meanwhile, has served as United’s captain for much of the season after he was acquired in the preseason via trade with the Portland Timbers. He relinquished the captain’s armband on Saturday against Houston, however, with DC opting to instead give the honor to veteran and fellow offseason Josh Wolff.

The 24-year-old McCarty — who was one of the catalysts for FC Dallas’ run to the MLS Cup last season and earned a call-up to the US national team earlier this year — has two assists through 13 games this season. Although not necessarily the offensive threat De Rosario is, he has become one of the league’s steadiest distributors and midfielders.

“Dax is an exciting young player who will immediately add his dynamic style of play to our midfield,” Red Bulls GM and sporting director Erik Solér said in a statement. “He is an excellent two-way player who will contribute both to our defense and to our attack for seasons to come.”

“To acquire such a promising player, we had to make a difficult decision in trading Dwayne," Solér added. "During his short time in New York, Dwayne has been a consummate professional. We wish him the best of luck in DC.”

Like De Rosario, McCarty struggled to find his niche with his new team after starting at least 17 games each of his last four seasons in the league with FCD. He was left unprotected by Dallas after last season, however, and Portland scooped him up with the top pick in MLS Expansion Draft before trading him to DC.

“I’m still trying to find my role, my niche with this team,” McCarty told MLSsoccer.com in May. “Just in terms of the middle of the field, finding the right balance with the other central midfielder and obviously the forwards.”

McCarty on Saturday downplayed the switch in captaincy, but also stressed that he's performed at a level not up to his own expectations.

“I need to kind of figure out how I can get back to my best level,” he said. “I’ve admitted this, and it’s still the case — I haven’t been playing as well as I should be. … I need to start performing at the level that made the coaching staff and the ownership want to bring me in here.”

DC also made a deal with the San Jose Earthquakes earlier on Monday, acquiring midfielder/defender Brandon McDonald for allocation money.

United are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 18 points.

New York will host D.C. United on July 9 at Red Bull Arena.