Midfielder and new acquisition Dax McCarty will be one of the last members of D.C. United to report to preseason camp.
And it’s for a good reason, as he’s taken a few days off after representing the US against Chile last Saturday.
McCarty opened camp with the national team since Jan. 3 in Carson, Calif., working and training ahead of the friendly. Part of an extremely young group of players, mostly from MLS, it was exciting for him just to be back in camp.
“Obviously I’ve had some experience with that before," he told MLSsoccer.com. "Anytime you go into a national team camp it’s always a time to try and get better as a player because you’re playing with some of the best players our country has to offer.”
Culminating with the training camp was the friendly against Chile, ending in a 1-1 draw. The overall experience for McCarty was tremendous, but the game was particularly special because he wore the captain’s armband and played a full 90 minutes.
[inline_node:327052]“It was a very surreal moment, one that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s not every day you get to represent your country in an international game, and it’s even more rare that you’re able to walk out on the field wearing the captain’s armband, leading the team.”
The entire experience was a bit different than McCarty’s previous stints with the national team. Despite having only two caps heading into the latest training camp, McCarty was one of the most experienced players this time around – even though his first January camp only came last year.
With that role reversal, he tried to act as a leader to some of the younger, more inexperienced teammates.
“I wanted to try and take on more of a leadership role," he said. "If guys had any questions or concerns, I was there to just try and tell them how I dealt with things,” he said.
One of McCarty’s brightest moments in training camp was caught on tape as well. During an intersquad scrimmage, he got on the end of a cross from Mix Diskkerud and sent a perfectly timed, flying bicycle kick into the net.
“The ball was in the air so long I had time to line it up, and just kind of went for it,” he said. “It’s one of those goals that if it ever happens again it will be extremely rare, and it’s kind of those moments where you say, 'Let’s go for it and see what happens.’ I connected with it pretty perfectly.”
Reflecting back on the entire camp, McCarty indicated that he was happy with his overall performance, and his play against Chile.
[inline_node:324358]However, opportunities to get caps down the road will be difficult in a position which also happens to be one of the deepest in the national team player pool.
“I realize that I have a long way to go in terms of getting more looks and more regular time with what would be considered the ‘A’ team,” he said. “But I’m a confident guy; I have confidence in my ability. I’m a fighter, I’m going to obviously be competitive and hopefully I can do well in MLS and do well at D.C. United and if I continue to get looks, that’s fantastic.”
With the camp now behind him, his focus now turns to D.C. United. Coach Ben Olsen gave McCarty a few days off to rest and relax while also preparing to move to the DC area. He’ll head up Friday and practice with his new teammates this weekend.
He's been in touch with Olsen over the past few days, staying on top of team news and trying to mentally prepare himself for the switch.
“Going in and being able to play for a team with that much tradition and the tremendous fan support that they get is obviously going to be very exciting for me," McCarty said. "I’m looking forward to getting started.”