Fire midfielder Dax McCarty spoke with the media on Tuesday for the first time since he was traded from New York to Chicago three weeks ago – and he pulled no punches, pointedly criticizing the Red Bulls and head coach Jesse Marsch for how they handled the shocking move.
McCarty, who made 169 appearances in five and a half years with the Red Bulls and captained the club to the Supporters’ Shield in 2015 and the top regular-season finish in the Eastern Conference last year, was acquired by Chicago in exchange for $400,000 in General Allocation Money on Jan. 16. The trade took McCarty completely by surprise, with the move being announced just days after the 29-year-old was married and while he was attending his first US national team camp in years.
McCarty said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday that while he understood the business aspect of the deal, he “didn’t think the [Red Bulls] handled the situation in a very classy way.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about and a lot of time to try to be measured in how I talk about the Red Bulls because it’s an organization that I love, but I thought it was not done in an appropriate way, especially for a club and a team that preaches family,” he said. “This is a team that preaches togetherness and a brotherhood and having each other’s backs – 'trust' is a big word that they use.”
Though McCarty was a huge presence on the Red Bulls since his arrival at the club in May 2011, New York might have seen him as somewhat expendable this offseason thanks to the 2016 emergence of midfielder Sean Davis.
Davis, 23, filled in admirably for McCarty in several stretches last year, including during a run of four consecutive games McCarty missed after suffering an injury on July 31 against Chicago. The third-year Homegrown midfielder also made significantly less money than McCarty in 2016, an important consideration in a salary-capped league like MLS.
“If you’re moving a veteran player on a high salary for business reasons and you have players who you think can step in and do the job that have lower salaries, that are younger, that you need to give minutes to, I’m the first one to say it’s a great move,” he said. “There’s no player that’s bigger than any club and that’s something that I understand full well. But I do think if you’re a club that preaches family and you’re a club that preaches doing things the right way and trying to treat players the right way, then I don’t think you go and trade a guy who you say you relied on a lot and that is your captain behind his back without at least telling him that, ‘Hey, these are some possibilities, unfortunately we have to move you.’
"I thought that I at least earned that.”
McCarty was clear in his comments that he thought Marsch was completely behind the deal and the way it was handled. He placed no blame on Red Bulls sporting director Ali Curtis, who, according to a recent report by Metro NY’s Kristian Dyer, is no longer acting as the leader of the club’s technical staff, with assistant coach Denis Hamlett acting as the point person for New York’s personnel department.
For his part, Marsch told FourFourTwo’s Paul Tenorio last week that he didn’t “think that the trade and the way it happened honored the relationship” that he or the club had with McCarty. He took responsibility for the way the trade was handled and said he understands that he and McCarty “may never really have the relationship we once had.”
“I saw the story and I saw the quotes that he made and I don’t really know what quite to make of them,” McCarty said. “Because at the end of the day you could tell it was a decision that was his decision. I don’t think Ali Curtis had anything to do with the decision. I think that’s fairly obvious with the way the club is treating Ali right now. It’s clear for everyone to see that he’s no longer a part of the decision making process going on at the Red Bulls, which is a little surprising to me considering he put together two years of one of the best teams in MLS that won the Supporters’ Shield and won an Eastern Conference, so that’s a little surprising to me how things are going down with Ali.
“At the end of the day, I totally respect Jesse’s decision to trade me for business reasons, if that’s his reason. If he wants to get guys, younger guys more minutes than I certainly agree with it in terms of trying to make the club better and move the club on. But I told Jesse to his face that I didn’t think the way that he handled it was appropriate and it certainly was a big surprise. I certainly thought the club could’ve gone about it a better way, but that’s life in professional sports. I respect Jesse as a coach. He’s a hell of a coach and I think he’s gonna do great things in his career as a coach -- but obviously, as a person and a human being, I feel like things could’ve been handled differently and that’s a big shame.”
For now, McCarty is focused on helping turn around Chicago, who finished dead last in MLS in each of the last two seasons. He sat down with head coach Veljko Paunovic and GM Nelson Rodriguez while in Southern California for the USMNT’s January camp shortly after the trade, saying they had a “good meeting” and that he appreciated the Fire brass’ show of “character and respect” to fly to LA to meet with him.
He joined the Fire following his appearance in the US’s 1-0 win against Jamaica last Friday, participating in his first training session with his new team on Tuesday.
“[The Red Bulls are] a club that I’ll always hold fondly in my heart, but it always leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth with the way things ended, so that’s a shame,” he said. “But I’ll move on, they’ll move on and I’m sure in the future we’ll shake hands and we’ll be fine. And as of now, my focus is to try to make the Chicago Fire a better team and I wish the Red Bulls nothing but the best.”