The past two seasons were an educational experience for former Fire captain Dax McCarty. The reasons he learned so much weren’t positive.
“For me, I’ve had a lot of experiences in my career,” McCarty said during an introductory teleconference with new club Nashville SC. “I’ve played in a lot of big games and I’ve been on some really, really good teams. The last two years in Chicago have actually been some of the most frustrating of my career. I learned a lot about myself because our team hasn’t had as much success as I’ve been used to at my previous stops.”
As McCarty alluded to, he’s experienced a lot of winning. He and FC Dallas claimed the 2010 Western Conference title, and McCarty was part of two Supporters’ Shield winners with the New York Red Bulls. His first season in Chicago saw the Fire finish with the league’s third-best record.
But over the last two years, the Fire squandered their 2017 momentum. That drop led to uncertainty entering the offseason, and it cost coach Veljko Paunovic his job.
“Pauno and I always had a very respectful relationship,” McCarty said. “He made me his captain. I tried my very best to do exactly what he asked of me personally on the field, but also what his tactical plans were. I tried to help the team carry that out on the field.”
There were moments when the Fire won games and looked like they could take another step. Unfortunately for them, they were fleeting.
“I think we had success on the field, but ultimately not enough,” McCarty said. “You never want to see someone lose their job. When they do, as a player you always feel like you have contributed to that in a certain way because you weren’t able to play better and get good results on the field. I wish Pauno nothing but the best going forward. I’m sure he’ll have plenty of options.”
Though he’ll be 33 next April and the central midfield position he plays is demanding, McCarty figured to have multiple teams after him this winter. The Fire held a 2020 club option for McCarty, and there wasn’t much clarity about his Fire future.
“When you have that uncertainty, you always have to look out for your future and see where the best thing for your personal situation is,” McCarty said. “Once my agent got wind of interest from Nashville, the clubs got together, my wife and I spoke about it, and we thought it was best for all parties if I would move on and if the Fire would acquiesce to my hope to end up in Nashville.”
The Fire didn’t have to do that. They could’ve moved him McCarty elsewhere, but instead traded him somewhere he wanted to go.
“I have to say, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Fire for the way that they handled the situation,” McCarty said. “They handled it extremely classy. As a veteran player, as you get older, you don’t want the club to just pawn you off to the highest bidder, so to speak. You want the club to take your values and your needs and your desires into account and the Fire did that, so I’ll be forever grateful to them for how they handled that situation.”