McCarty finds a home in Red Bulls' central midfield

It was his first match with his fourth club this year, but it looks like Dax McCarty may have found a home in New York.

Acquired from D.C. United on Monday afternoon in a trade that sent Dwayne De Rosario to RFK Stadium, McCarty lived up to his billing on Saturday night in front of a record crowd at Stanford Stadium in a 2-2 draw against the Earthquakes. From box to box, McCarty ran the full 90 minutes, providing some needed bite and spark in the center of the New York midfield.

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“I think it’s going to be a great fit for myself,” McCarty said. “Hopefully I can prove to the fans and the coaches and my teammates that I deserve to be here and I can help them win.”

It was the little things from McCarty, who has never in his five years in the league been a stat-driven player. What he might lack in big numbers, McCarty makes up for in positioning and technical acumen, as evidenced in his New York debut. He called the match “a good building block.”

Goals by Joe Lindpere in each half bookended efforts by San Jose’s Khari Stephenson and a second half header by Steven Lenhart to lift the Red Bulls to the draw. But while his name wasn’t on the scorer’s sheet, McCarty’s impact was felt and seen as he lined up next to Teemu Tainio deep in the Red Bulls midfield.

“If we play with two real holding players, then me and Dane [Richards] don’t have to run like hell around,” Lindpere said. “Everyone can see we have more freedom to attack.”

It was a philosophy and scheme similar to last year when the Red Bulls rode two holding midfielders to the regular season Eastern Conference title.

But against San Jose, time after time, it was a simple pass from the midfielder or a switch of the field that sustained possession for New York. Perhaps most important was how McCarty involved his teammates in the play, not just looking forward by also playing the ball wide as well. His style fits in perfectly with the Red Bulls possession approach to the game, an approach that seems to mirror the FC Dallas team McCarty captained last year to the MLS Cup final.

“Very similar style to FC Dallas except I think we’re a little bit better in possession all over the field,” McCarty said. “For me that’s a fantastic system to play. I love being able to get the ball off my foot one, two-touch and find guys in attacking positions that could make things happen.”

The response from his teammates, particularly those in the attack, was nothing but positive.

“I told him after the game, ‘Man it’s great to have you here,’” forward Juan Agudelo said. “He helped us a lot in this game. He’s going to help us a lot in the future.”

And a big effort from McCarty was needed against a determined Earthquakes side.

Even with the Gold Cup being over, the Red Bulls were still far from full strength for this match. Thierry Henry was ruled out on Saturday with the flu and Luke Rodgers and Rafa Marquez, both with injuries, did not travel to northern California. And with his surgery this past Wednesday, head coach Hans Backe stayed home under doctor’s orders and was not permitted to fly.

But despite the missing starters, McCarty sees the potential for New York to be dynamic in the attack.

“Once we get everyone healthy and start really training together, I think we’ll be a difficult team to stop. We’re going to be a dangerous team,” McCarty said. “When we passed the ball and moved, we created plenty of chances, we broke them down a lot. We were unlucky not to go to halftime up 1-0, let alone two or three.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer