Dax McCarty - Chicago Fire - Charges after the ball
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Dax McCarty eager to compete, but also "enjoying the moment" in US camp

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Chicago Fire may be excluded from contention, but Dax McCarty still has World Cup aspirations.

The Fire midfielder was one of eight called up to participate in a two-week training camp at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as the US national team preps for Saturday's friendly against Venezuela (10 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN in US) and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches vs. Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico.

“The World Cup is next year, but we have to qualify first and I think every player here wants to qualify,” McCarty told MLSsoccer.com. “But for me, in terms of my chances with the national team, I’m 30 years old, so I feel like I’m in the prime of my career right now and I’m playing some of the best soccer that I’ve played.”

He’s only earned six caps since debuting in 2009. But McCarty’s international career has experienced an uptick since Bruce Arena was given the USMNT reins for the second time last year.

“Obviously, it’s been a little while since I’ve been involved with the national team,” McCarty said. “I’ve been in and out. I was in with Bob Bradley towards the end of his tenure and was called in once under Jurgen [Klinsmann]. Now with Bruce coming in, he’s given me a couple of chances. I look at this as a big opportunity.”

This latest international call-up marks the second for McCarty in 2017 following his participation in the USMNT’s January camp.

“Dax is a good, experienced player,” Arena told reporters this week. “He’s had a good start with Chicago and he’s a player that I’ve followed for years, and a player who I think is a really good player.”

It remains to be seen where McCarty will slot in, given the current depth and competition within the US midfield. He’s been recognized one of the catalysts on a Fire team that has vaulted itself into second place in the MLS Eastern Conference. But on the international level, he’s not taking anything for granted.

“It’s been an honor to be within the group,” he said. “I’m excited to continue to challenge to get playing time. If you’re not a so-called starter, your job is to push those guys as hard as you can and push them in training. As far as where I stand, I’m here to help the team in any way I can, whether that’s starting games, coming off the bench, or just training well and being here for moral support.”

Chicago have earned four straight wins in MLS play, and that good run of form – combined with some time spent around teammate and World Cup veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger – has left McCarty with confidence heading into this camp.

“[Schweinsteiger] brings an element of composure to the midfield that not many guys in this league are capable of,” McCarty explained. “For me, playing with a guy like that, it gives me confidence to want to continue to play well. He’s made me a better player.”

As USMNT camp rolls on, he remains focused on earning the attention and confidence of Arena and his coaching staff.

“Every opportunity is one to try and make a good impression,” McCarty said. “I’m not going to try to predict the future and see what’s going to happen, I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.”