WASHINGTON — Ten games into the 2011 season, D.C. United fans have yet to see the real Dax McCarty.
The new DC captain — a player who manager Ben Olsen made a point to acquire during the recent offseason as a player he could build his team around — admits he’s still working on adapting to his new club.
“I hold myself to a pretty high standard, and I don’t think I’ve been as good as I should have been in these past 10 games,” McCarty admitted this week.
McCarty has typically been paired with Clyde Simms in central midfield, where his energy and ability to cover a lot of ground are assets.
But United's midfield has come under heat of late for failing to create enough attacking opportunities. Midfielders have only accounted for four assists on the year, with McCarty’s lone helper coming when he stepped on the ball, stopping it for a teammate on a rehearsed set piece.
“I’m still trying to find my role, my niche with this team just in terms of the middle of the field, finding the right balance with the other central midfielder and obviously the forwards,” he said.
Olsen doesn’t use the same measure to evaluate McCarty’s performance. A former MLS central midfielder himself, DC’s manager appreciates the finer side of McCarty’s game.
“We ask a lot of Dax,” Olsen said. “He’s doing a lot of stuff that some people don’t see.”
The 24-year-old is also responsible for taking the majority of his team’s set pieces. The role is not anything new for McCarty, who handled those duties with FC Dallas before David Ferreira joined Schellas Hyndman's club.
Dead-ball plays are just one area where D.C. United hope to see improvement. Not including penalty kicks, DC have managed just one goal off set pieces this year — a direct free kick by Marc Burch in a 4-1 loss at Houston.
“It’s just a matter of repetition,” McCarty said. “Some set pieces have been okay, some have been not so great, so it’s something we continue to work on in training.”
Time. That’s all McCarty feels he needs in order to meet his own expectations and that of the club’s supporters.
“I think I have a lot more to give to this team, so that’s just something I’m continuing to work out,” he said. “The good news is that I’m feeling more comfortable each game with the guys, and there’s certainly some expectations that I’ll play better, and I think the team has a lot more to give. We’re heading in the right direction, for sure.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.