WASHINGTON — When D.C. United took the field Saturday night against Houston, there was a subtle shift in the team.
Josh Wolff wore the captain’s armband, leading the team out of the tunnel, despite the fact that Dax McCarty was healthy and back in the starting lineup for the first time since May 14.
Head coach Ben Olsen downplayed the significance of the move after the game.
“It’s not that big a deal,” he told reporters. “While Dax was hurt [with the injury], Josh kind of had it. It was working, so I talked to Dax. I think he understands right now it’s probably more important for him to be dealing with himself getting back from the injury and doing his stuff on the field.”
McCarty was named the club’s captain prior to the season’s start, and up until the groin injury he suffered in May he had assumed the role vacated by the retired Jaime Moreno. But during McCarty’s injury absence, the 34-year-old World Cup veteran Wolff wore the armband, and continued to do so this past weekend.
Speaking to reporters after the game, McCarty was at peace with the development as the mentality adopted at the start of the season was for a collective leadership effort to guide the young team.
“I’ve had this conversation with Benny and Josh and Santino [Quaranta], and more of the veteran leaders of this team,” McCarty said, “It’s going to be a captain by committee, and I had a conversation with Benny and he said, ‘Look, nothing changes. Wolff is going to continue to wear the armband for now.’ I had no problem with that because this is a team.”
Back at the beginning of the season, the opportunity to become captain of his new club was one that McCarty was eager for. However, looking back on it, he admitted to perhaps taking on too much too soon.
“For me, coming into a new team, when we had that discussion, I told [Olsen] I wanted that responsibility,” he said. “I really did. In retrospect, maybe I wasn’t quite ready for that coming into a new team, being 23 [and] not really knowing what to expect.”
Without the captain’s armband Saturday night, McCarty put in a good effort against the Dynamo, going 52 minutes. His hustle play in the first half kept a ball alive and started the sequence that yielded DC’s first goal of the evening. Later in the half, he almost scored on a corner kick only for a Houston defender to scramble the ball off the line.
And while he acknowledged that it was a good start, he’s still itching to return to his old self.
“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.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.