This season has been an anomaly for Dax McCarty.
The Chicago Fire midfielder is going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009, as he has typically been part of successful teams regardless if he was wearing an FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls or Fire jersey. And it's not something he takes lightly.
"It's tough, it's a struggle mentally," McCarty told MLSsoccer.com. "I'm not used to the feeling of not playing soccer into November, it's something that is obviously a big frustration for myself and our team."
In McCarty's first season with the club in 2017, he helped turn around a team that finished bottom of the Eastern Conference the year prior and led them third-place finish and playoff berth. But this year, a slow start, followed by an eight-game losing streak over the summer left them destined for a spot below the playoff line.
So, after such a promising 2017, what went wrong for the Fire in 2018?
"A little bit of everything," McCarty said. "We were more inconsistent this year than last year. ... Some of the older senior players, like myself, we had a little bit of a regression. We didn't play as well as we did last year. That's part of it, we just weren't able to work through those inconsistencies."
McCarty is quick to point out one reason for their regression: home form. In 2017 they held a 12-2-3 record at Toyota Park, one of the best in the league, but are 6-7-3 so far this season, one of just four teams with more losses than wins at home.
"I think a big part of it was our home form was really good last year but this year we really let ourselves down at home," McCarty said." If you don't win the majority of your home games, obviously every team is going to have a little bit of a struggle on the road, so not winning those home games came back to cost us a little bit. ... As an experienced guy, I'm going to have to have a better season."
Fans across the league will have to watch the McCarty-less playoffs for the first time this decade, meaning his glorious contribution to No Shave November will be missed. Fear not, though, he will still be participating.
"I think I will definitely bring the mustache back, just to annoy my wife because she doesn't like it," McCarty laughed. "So I'll just do it to annoy her."