McCarty was involved in a blockbuster trade from the New York Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire earlier this week, and the move means Jesse Marsch's side will head into the 2017 season without one of its midfield stalwarts and captain. As far as Wright-Phillips is concerned, that is a huge loss.
“He’s one of those guys, I don’t care if you brought in Messi, you miss,” said Wright-Phillips, “He’s a lot more than a good football player to our team. There’s times in our season where it’s hard, it’s getting tough, and Dax gets us out of those situations.
“Great player, great man. He’s a born captain. There aren’t many players that are supposed to be captains, but Dax is one of them. He’ll be hard to replace.”
Everyone is still digesting this news, including McCarty, but preseason camp is around the corner and the Red Bulls will need to replace his presence both in the midfield and in the locker room. Wright-Phillips is pretty sure 23-year-old Homegrown Player Sean Davis can fill one if not both of those roles.
“Sean Davis is one of the best youngsters I’ve been around,” said Wright-Phillips. “He’s got an old head on his shoulders, and he’s a very good player at that. It’s obviously going to take him a while to reach those heights, but I do think he has the mentality and the ability.
“He can’t do what Dax has done, they’re different people, but he definitely has the mentality and the ability to be a Red Bulls captain. I said this last season, that he’s captain material.”
There’s another Homegrown midfielder that Wright-Phillips thinks is ready to make a contribution down the line, and that is 17-year-old Tyler Adams. Although Adams might be further off than Davis from being able to contribute every week, Wright-Phillips is convinced that the teenager can help fill the McCarty's void in the short and long term.
“Tyler, he’s a beast,” said Wright-Phillips. “You wouldn’t believe his age when you see him walking around the training ground. He’s in the zone, he’s not phased by anything.
“He gets the job done. If Red Bull can keep Sean Davis and Tyler, they’ve got a bright future ahead of them. Those two in the midfield can be very good.”
Replacing McCarty’s presence on the field is going to be crucial this year for the Red Bulls, especially if they want to finally get over the hump and reach MLS Cup. The Red Bulls have come close to reaching the championship game in recent years, but have fallen short every time.
“We need to be a bit more mature,” said Wright-Phillips. “When we’re playing in a playoff [series], this is two games, we can relax a bit. I think we just go all guns blazing and it costs us, with the away goals, sometimes conceding a goal when we don’t have to.
“Last season in the playoffs we were not clinical in front of goal, me and a few other players, we could have done a lot more attacking. But we need to find a way not to concede goals. We’ve got to know how important it is just to stay in the game. Once we get over that, I think we can win MLS Cup.”