Dax McCarty - Chicago Fire - May 18, 2019
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

How Oscar Pareja's criticism helped shape Dax McCarty's career

Dax McCarty is a two-time MLS All-Star who has been a regular starter in the center of midfield  for more than a decade and is set to be a cornerstone of Nashville SC in the club’s expansion season.

But the 32-year-old might not have had the success he’s had in the league if not some brutally honest post-match comments from Oscar Pareja early in his rookie season.

McCarty came into the league with an impressive resume — he was a member of the United States Under-17 Residency Program and had a successful two-year career at the University of North Carolina before being selected sixth overall in the MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas.

He spent most of the preseason training with the starting XI, yet didn’t make the game-day 18-man roster for the club’s regular season opener. Instead, he played with the reserves, coached by Oscar Pareja, the next day.

The opponent was the Dallas Texans, a hugely successful club program in the pre-Academy world. The Texans won that match, 3-0, and Pareja, the recently-hired Orlando City SC coach, sat the team in a circle after the match and chewed out McCarty.

“He just lit me up, in front of everyone, harder than I’ve ever been lit up in my whole career,” he told Andrew Wiebe in the latest Extratime driven by Continental. “He destroyed me, he said ‘I don’t know who you think you are. You haven’t proven anything to anyone yet. You come on the field and act like you’re owed something and you’re not owed anything.’”

McCarty said “that really resonated with me,” and provided the impetus for a much better sophomore campaign. After playing a grand total of 11 minutes in 2006, McCarty made 18 starts in 25 appearances in 2007 and made the U.S. team that played in the U-20 World Cup in Canada.