Unsung hero Dax McCarty the catalyst for resurgent Chicago Fire

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Bastian Schweinsteiger’s arrival has understandably received the majority of media and fan attention, but midfield partner Dax McCarty has quietly continued to show how vital he will be if the Chicago Fire are to return to the top of the MLS table.

The former New York Red Bulls man put in another man-of-the-match shift as the Fire beat Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew SC 1-0 to climb to second and pull within two points of Gregg Berhalter’s men.

McCarty covered every inch of grass as his fledgling partnership with Schweinsteiger helped establish the home side’s territorial advantage in the first half. He also provided the assist on Nemanja Nikolic’s game-winning goal in the 22nd minute with the kind of incisive through ball that his new German teammate would be proud of.

As he did in last week’s 2-2 tie with the Montreal Impact, McCarty was full of unselfish running, providing a resolute defensive shield in front of the Fire defense and also contributing with great effect as Veljko Paunovic’s men pressed for a second goal.

“Very satisfied with Dax’s performances,” the Fire head coach said at the postgame press conference. “I think in every game he is feeling more comfortable and getting in that role that we wanted and expected from him. He’s a leader on and off the field. He’s getting to that level that we always said we saw him playing at [with the New York] Red Bulls and the level that is required to play on the national team. Hopefully, all together, we can manage to fulfill all our goals and objectives and also for him to play for the national team in the future.”

His midfield partner Schweinsteiger is one of the chief beneficiaries from McCarty’s non-stop running, and he is happy to have a man with such quality and experience alongside him as he eases himself into life in MLS.

“He’s great to have him in your back, behind you so he covers a lot and he also understands the game very well,” the German said. “He knows exactly where to pass the ball, when to turn and when to keep the ball, so you can really see that he’s experienced.”

McCarty was handed the captain’s armband for the first time because of the suspension of Juninho. But it’s a mark of the man’s character that he insisted on making sure Michael de Leeuw, who wore the arm band in the reverse fixture in Columbus on opening day, was comfortable with the decision.

It was also McCarty’s 250th start in MLS, a milestone he was unaware of. 

“It was an honor [to captain the side],” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I didn’t know it was my 250th start. It’s always a pleasure when you can do what you love for a living and you can do it for a long time. My career, when I first started, I always had belief that I would be a good player and I would have a long career, but 12 years is nothing to take for granted.

“I feel like I’m still growing as a player, I think I have a lot more to give and I think that this is a great club to be at, because they want to turn this club into a winner again and I want to be on a winning team. The more games I get to play the happier I’ll be, so every time I step on the field I try to treat it like it’s my last game, because you don’t want to take this career for granted.” 

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