HANOVER, N.J. – Dax McCarty has started the majority of his games for the New York Red Bulls in recent years, and he has done so despite fighting through the pain of a problematic lower back injury.
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke revealed during his conference call on Tuesday that McCarty has long been dealing with back problems, and the reoccurrence of the injury is why the ironman midfielder started this past weekend’s 2-2 draw with the Montreal Impact on the bench before being inserted at halftime.
McCarty felt the all-too-familiar pain resurface on the eight-hour flight to Vancouver ahead of the season opener last month, but it got substantially worse during the 1-1 home draw with Chivas USA on March 30. The 26-year-old midfielder dealt with the discomfort for 86 minutes in that game against the Goats before making way for Eric Alexander, who wound up assisting on the stoppage-time equalizer.
“I don’t know how I got through that game, honestly,” McCarty said after Wednesday’s training session. “I wasn’t feeling good. I tried to take a couple pain-killing injections and it was definitely something that I had to fight to get through.
“I don’t want to make any excuses. I’m always trying to make myself available to play whenever I’m healthy and it’s just one of those injuries that I can’t really say that, ‘Oh he’s injured or he’s not injured.’ It’s just one of those things I’ve had to deal with it for the past couple of years.”
It is not uncommon for players to have lingering injuries throughout a season, but McCarty said that his pain comes and goes randomly and that there really is no explanation for what triggers it. The veteran speculated that it is just a result of all the wear and tear that his body has accumulated since he made his professional debut back in 2006.
“You never think about these types of things when you’re 18, 19 years old and you’re first starting out,” he said. “But when you’ve been around for a while, you kind of know what it’s going to take to continue to play at a high level. Luckily, I’m experienced enough to know what I’m going to need to do for the rest of my career to try and keep this at bay.”
McCarty is now taking a new medication that he believes will help him throughout the remainder of the season and his career. He has taken different medications and undergone several forms of treatment in the past to help remedy the situation, but he believes the current approach will help put the injury woes behind him.
“I think this treatment I’m doing now is kind of a last-ditch effort that you wanted to do, and it’s something that I’m on and something that seems to be working,” said McCarty, who added that no surgery or rest is needed. “I’m going to trust the doctors and I’m just going to trust my body and try, if there is any pain in the future, just to deal with it like I always have.”
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Ever the competitor, McCarty is still disappointed with having lost a start against the Impact last weekend, but he’s hoping that the sharp back pains that have plagued him for so long are behind him for good.
“It’s not a muscle injury, it’s a joint inflammation injury,” he said. “So when you have those, it’s just something that if you get on the right medication, it’s definitely possible to make the pain go away.
“My goal for the rest of the season is to not let this affect me, to stay mentally sharp and to make sure that when I am on the field, I’m helping the team and make sure that hopefully starting this weekend in D.C. we get our first win.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.