McCarty arrives in Fire camp, club needs to change acceptance of losing

This past winter, Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez spoke several times about the need for a leader or “boss” in the locker room. A player with that reputation is exactly what the team is getting in newly arrived Dax McCarty.

The veteran midfielder joined the team in Fort Myers, Florida last night before participating in his first training session this morning. McCarty didn’t shy away from addressing what he feels the downfall of the Fire has been over the last several seasons during a teleconference call with media on Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of the front office, and the team and what’s been going on,” said McCarty. “My view as an outsider is that the team has always been a fairly competitive team. I remember playing against Chicago last year and the year before and thinking, it’s never an easy game to play against the Fire. From the outside looking in, and this might sound a bit harsh, but as you get to me know me better I speak my mind and I don’t sugar coat things. From the outside looking in, it looked like losing almost became accepted. A culture of losing with this club almost became the norm from the front office down to the players down to all the staff. It almost became like they were indifferent about winning and that’s crazy to me. That’s insane.”

Known for his candor, McCarty didn’t stop there and didn’t hold back in the assessment.

“When you’re a club that hasn’t made the playoffs in three or four years, when you’re a club that has made the playoffs once in eight or nine years, I don’t know the exact numbers but I think that there needs to be a little more accountability and there needs to be accountability from the top down to say, ‘this is ridiculous’. For the most part, it’s harder to miss the playoffs numerous years in a row than it is to make it numerous years in a row. That’s crazy to me, that this culture of losing has kind of been accepted.”

“I’ve said this to Nelson, and I’ve said this to Pauno, this isn’t new. This is how I feel. I told them that I’m not the type of guy, and I’m not the type of player that is going to be okay with being average and having another losing season. I guess that’s part of why they’re bringing me in, to try to change that culture a little bit. It’s not just one player. It’s not just one coach. It’s the entire organization from the top all the way to the bottom. From the owner, to the president. to the GM, to the head coach, to all the players, to the kid’s staff, to the field crew, every single person in the club has to be pulling in the same direction. Every single person has to know that this club is going to be about winning and nothing else will be accepted. From my uneducated perspective on what’s going on with the team, it just kind of seemed that losing became okay to everyone and that’s something that we need to change.”

McCarty was hesitant to say that he alone could change that culture, but cited another player from a winning organization like Juninho could also help reverse fortunes. He believes that the changes made this winter can lead to a group effort in creating a locker room culture of accountability and leadership coupled with team togetherness on and off the field.

“This isn’t a one-man effort. I’m not going to make any massive promises about how I’m going to come in and I’m going to change this, and I’m going to change that. I’m going to be myself. I’m going to be the player that I’ve always been. I’m going to try to be a good leader. I’m going to try my best to help the team on the field, but also help the team off the field,” he said.

Despite some similarities in their games, McCarty is looking forward to a field partnership with Juninho. He wasn’t quite sure yet how the team will play, or what shape they’ll assume but pointed out that playing alongside good players makes transition easier.

“When I saw the Fire made a move for Juninho, when I was still a Red Bulls player, I thought that was a fantastic addition for them,” said McCarty of his new teammate. “This is a guy that I’ve played against a lot in my career. Juninho is a fantastic center midfielder. I think that he never got enough credit for those LA teams that were so good a couple of years ago. He was a huge, huge part of that team and I think that he’s a very underrated player.”

He’s only had one training session under his belt but his initial impression of Veljko Paunovic’s approach this season is based on “holding everyone to a high standard.”

McCarty has previously addressed his disappointment in learning of the trade from New York, but expanded on those thoughts today. The anger he felt after the transaction wasn’t necessarily based on his departure from one of the top teams in MLS to the worst in the league over the last two seasons. “The main part of my emotional side of it was (based) on how the Red Bulls handled the situation. I didn’t think they handled the situation in a very classy way,” he said.

“I thought that it was not done in an appropriate way, especially in a team that preaches family. This is a team that preaches togetherness, brotherhood, and having each other’s back. Trust is a big word that they use.” McCarty conceded that he understands the dynamics of the league and how professional sports can work and did realize that a trade was a possibility given the success of Sean Davis in his place last season, but he was still disappointed that New York Red Bull didn’t feel he was a player worthy of being given a say in the matter. After serving as their captain and leading the team, he felt that he had earned that consideration and would have respected them more if they would have approached him first.

After the trade, McCarty met with Paunovic and Rodriguez at USMNT camp and the conversation helped ease the tension, but it didn’t come overnight. “They said all the right things. They said all the things that I expected them to say. It was always going to take time. That’s something that I respect and appreciate about them. They said what they needed to say, (and) I said what I need to say. It was a good meeting. It was a respectful meeting. I saw what their plans are for the club and they laid out what their intentions are to try to bring the Chicago Fire back to the glory days of being a top team in MLS.”

McCarty admitted that is was difficult getting through that first week emotionally. “For the most part, they understood where I was coming from,” he said of the Chicago technical brass. “They respected the fact that I still needed a little bit of time to process everything and let it sink in and gather my emotions and my thoughts. I’m very happy that they gave me that time and they weren’t bombarding me with all kinds of requests for me to do things. They wanted me to focus on the National Team.”

Now that he’s donned a Fire training kit and US camp is over, McCarty said he will focus on integrating himself into the club. Although he’s not necessarily circling the calendar for the first showdown with his former club, he is looking forward to his first game back at Red Bull Arena. A reunion with friends and a potential encounter with Jesse Marsch, who McCarty believes spearheaded the trade is inevitable. “He’s just an opposing coach that coaches another team in MLS. I’m on another team that’s going to try to beat them,” said McCarty in downplaying the motivation for performing against Marsch and New York.

The trade and the way it went down isn’t going to sit well with McCarty anytime soon, however.

“It was a decision that was his (Marsch’s) decision. I don’t think Ali Curtis had anything to do with the decision. I think it’s fairly obvious with the way the club is treating Ali right now that it was clear for everyone to see that he is 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 a Supporters Shield and the Eastern Conference. That’s a little surprising to me, the way that 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 younger guys more minutes, I certainly agree with it in terms of trying to make the club better and move the club on. 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 have gone about it in a little bit better way, but this is life in professional sports. I respect Jesse as a coach. He’s a helluva coach. I think he’s going to do great things in his career. I think he’s a fantastic coach, but obviously as a person and as a human being, I feel that things could have been handled differently, and that’s a big shame.”

McCarty noted that Paunovic and Rodriguez spoke to people around the league about his character and got very good feedback from everyone, including referees which brought him some amusement.

“This is MLS. Any team makes a couple of moves and they can be contenders after being terrible the year before. The Colorado Rapids are a perfect example of that.”

Rodriguez and Paunovic are hoping that holds true in Chicago.


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  • I want him to be our captain. I love David but this man has that mentality and leadership to guide this team. He even has the balls to tell us that our team is used to loosing which would even motivate me as a fan to do better if I was a player playing for a team like the Fire. Who do you guys think should be our captain?

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    There are three guys on this team now who would be capable...McCarty, Juninho, and de Leeuw.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    Accam should never wear the captain's armband, IMO.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    True Accam is really selfish IMO and I feel like he plays for himself. How much assists does he even have compared to goals?

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    Accam had 5 assists last year (9 Goals). Enough to be second in assist generation for the fire....

    What does that say about our team when the player with the second most assists is considered selfish and not creating enough chances for other players?

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    I think the selfishness is just an aspect of Accam's personality. He looks out for number one but that number one contributes to the overall bottom line. His tendancy in tight spots in the mid- final-third has been to try and dribble through and break away, but with a better supporting cast this year, maybe his feeds and give-and-goes will increase (plus, you have to factor who's been on the left supporting him.) I understand why he's not been the biggest on assists. Hopefully that increases (along with his other numbers) this year.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    His feeds/give and go's won't increase because it wasn't a lack of supporting talent for why he didn't do those things. I saw him constantly try to take on 3 players when there was a better pass available. He wants to be the star, get that big money EPL deal, but he doesn't have the skill to take players on 1 on 1, let alone 2v1 and 3v1. His one move is try to kick it past the defender and use his speed to get on it (or use that speed to flop in the box and pull a PK). This stopped being effective during the season because everyone just learned to put a second defender to cover that ball. Accam didn't catch on and lost the ball time and time again because of it.

    Accam is never going to be the assist man because he doesn't have the skills to be an assist man. He doesn't have the positional awareness of his surrounding teammates to be able to pull the double/triple coverage and dump it off. He doesn't have the crossing skills to take it into the corner and place it on someones head. If you doubt this, look at every corner kick he has ever taken and how none of them were in the air. He may be faster then Nyarko, but he's no Nyarko. I'd take Nyarko over Accam any day of the week and twice on sundays. Nyarko could take on 2 defenders on the touchline, create space and make the pass. Accam doesn't have that skill.

    Where Accam can be a good tool, that star player he is not.

  • In reply to edubs:

    That's exactly what I was trying to say

  • In reply to edubs:

    I'm willing to withhold my judgement on Accam based on the addition of so many new offensive pieces.

    Yes, he wants to move to a bigger stage. Yes, he can be selfish. As for last year - he may have had open passes, but to whom? Really, if someone told YOU that passing the ball to Khaly Thiam was going to produce a scoring chance, would you do it? And if you're Paunovic, what do you say to Accam? Pass it to Arshakyan? I don't think so. Do you think Avram Grant would have him in the Ghana squad if he hogged the ball to the detriment of big players like Asamoah Gyan, the Ayew bros, Atsu, Ofori, Tettey? Nah, I don't see it.

    Now, swap out Khaly Thiam/David Arshakyan/Players X,Y,Z for Dax, Juninho, Nikolic, DeLeeuw (I know they played together for half a season but that's one player). I think those new guys are going to do their best to tamp down Accam's excesses while at the same time helping him figure out how to use his skills at the right times to complement theirs.

    That will be the test of Accam's real ability to play as a member of a club team. If he can't adapt and become a better player in a good team, instead of a good player in a bad team, so be it.

  • In reply to edubs:

    Oh jeez, thanks for that laughter fit.

    Nyarko over Accam.

    I'm dying.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    In 1828 minutes last year with DC, Nyarko made 8 Assists and 4 goals. Versus Accam's 9 goals and 5 assists with 1935 minutes. That's negligible more production with a much larger price tag.

    Absolutely I'll take Nyarko over Accam. And I'll take that DP money and spend it else where.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Agreed. He has his place on the team, but he's not a captain.

  • McCarty and DeLeeuw will be on the same page about the losing mentality. DeLeeuw was not as sweeping in his comments though - he didn't call out the kit managers and front office (and I thought the kit manager purge had accomplished its mission... maybe not...).

  • I think Dax should make a few practice session runs through the front office with G providing his excellent coverage! In fact, I might even spring for the Blu-ray if it included the owner's and treasurer's offices with occupants present.

  • I saw the highlights of his practice session yesterday. His ability to keep the ball and spot the right pass at full speed is just wonderful to watch. He is going to be the best addition to the Fire since Blanco. Seriously, Dax is a game changer. I am very sad for Polster. Just by being with Juninho and McCarty, Polster will grow tremendously. I honestly think Poster would make a great forward. He has a cannon of a shot. He is as strong as most CBs. He works harder than anyone else. I say throw him up top when he gets healthy and see what he can do.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Polster could be like Clint Dempsey where he started as a defensive midfielder and blossomed into a forward on the US national team!
    Not saying Polster could be as successful as Dempsey especially as a Forward but he is a great player and I hope he doesn't get relegated to the bench with the now packed midfield after McC and Juninho acquisitions! Putting the best players on the field is the key, obviously putting them in the position they can maximize their talent and for the teams good is key...I could see Polster for now starting at RB and having free reign to attack and be offensive and have cover behind him with McC/Juninho and the defenders when the time is right based on matchups and need for goals, etc.

  • While I am sorry to hear that Polster will be sidelined for the next 6-7 weeks, I think its worth noting how much better we are able to handle his absence now vs. last season. Losing Matt Polster changes from disaster to inconvenience when you have Juninho and McCarty on the roster.

  • In reply to DDT5583:

    It might not even be an "inconvenience". Having Juninho and McCarty on the field doesn't leave much room for Polster. These acquisitions may have completely relegated him to the bench as it is. I'm really hoping that he can learn a lot from those two and make a strong argument for why he should be on the pitch. I love watching him play, but its going to be hard for him to get a starting role. This injury is not helping.

  • In reply to edubs:

    Agreed that Polster's injury comes at an extremely unfortunate time. We still need him and this is an important time for him to be working with and learning from Dax and Juninho. One would hope he can still be present at camp, observing and discussing with these two the finer points of positioning and reading counterattacks. If he cannot learn physically, at least build rapport and absorb as much from their experience as possible. I think, depending somewhat on the formation(s) Pauno elects to employ, we will almost certainly see the importance of having Polster in reserve at D-mid more than a few times during the upcoming season.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    I'm hoping they run him out there at RB. He has good pace up the sideline and can connect passes and service. He played CB in college, so defense may be in his future again.

  • I'm happy Dax said this. Maybe it will give the FO a kick in the butt as well.

  • That new rule involving the maximum player's age to be 35 in Illinois as an athlete is just ridiculous and silly. Hopefully the law doesen't get past because that just puts an end to this team and state for sports. To shorten this up, every sport needs a veteran player in presence to be a good and succesful team. Look at us last year, we were really young and we struggled, but when Michael came in our team was on hot form. This shows that age is just a number.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    What? When did this happen?

  • In reply to Modibo:

    It didn't happen yet but it is possible. Look at Guillermo's retweet

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    Its actually on Orrin Schwartz's twitter. Again it may not even be signed.

  • In reply to DavidFromChicago:

    The rule doesn't limit a players age to 35. It is a proposal to make players over 35 ineligible for workers compensation. It will have the same effect in the end of causing players over 35 to not consider playing here and is a horrible bill to even propose. I'm sorry but as a sports organization, if you employ a player and that player gets hurt performing for you, then yes you should compensate that player. What horrible legislation.

  • In reply to edubs:

    It's legislation proposed and pushed by the McCaskey family who own the Bears. Apparently not content with $700 million in taxpayer money to build them a new stadium, they want to change the state laws on workman's compensation to improve their profit margin. Beyond Chutzpah.

  • In reply to edubs:

    How stupid of a "bill" law proposal whatever you want to call it!
    Let the players skill or lack there of determine when they should retire from a Sport...they are year after year of young kids getting drafted and challenging these older guys for roster spots!

    Did Tom Brady at 39 years old last Sunday winning his 5th Super Bowl slap this bill/proposal in the face!
    Vince Carter at 40 years old schooling young guys...etc etc

    Let the laws stay out of Sports, enough going on currently with actual life injustices, stay out of the Sports/entertainment area!

  • Drinking the Fire Kool Aid again. Defensive MF Kante went from EPL champs Leicester to nearly regulated Chelsea for the 16/17 season. Now, Leicester is going to be in the Champions League next year and Chelsea (with the same squad Mou had) is arguably the best team in the world. T&T are a pretty weak squad, but McCarty "bossed" the middle of the pitch all night. The pass to Benny was class. Gotta believe McCarty and Juninho are going to make a big difference for this squad.

  • still not interested. only interested in the interest

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