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New babies highlight priorities for Fire players

Dax McCarty and wife Jennifer welcomed their first child last Thursday. Two days later, McCarty played 90 minutes. | Courtesy of Chicago Fire Soccer Club

Even though he’s an experienced player who’s completely familiar with what he needs before a match, Dax McCarty didn’t know how he would feel during last Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rapids.

Two days earlier, McCarty and his wife Jennifer welcomed their first child to the world. And watching his wife give birth to son Callum gave Dax McCarty even more appreciation for Jennifer and everything new mothers go through.

“You already love your wife a tremendous amount, but just seeing what a woman goes through and how strong they have to be and how strong they are to bring life into this world, it’s almost impossible to say you can love them any more (than before), but you can,” Dax McCarty said. “You have an incredible amount of gratitude for the amount of things they’re capable of doing and that they are willing to do to start a family.”

Though an impending game isn’t the most important thing when welcoming a new child, it still matters to the players. They want to win and help their teammates. They also appreciate their partners, who understand the pressure and rigors of major-league sports.

Forward Nemanja Nikolic announced the birth of his third child on March 1, one day before the Fire’s season opener at the LA Galaxy. Nikolic missed two days of training to be with his wife, but still flew out to Los Angeles and was available to play.

Like McCarty, Nikolic is a veteran who knows how to prepare. But unlike McCarty, he had experienced having kids and was familiar with balancing the demands of a newborn with requirements to be a successful professional soccer player.

“For me, the most important thing is that the baby and the mom are going to be OK,” Nikolic said. “After that, I just flew to LA more motivated and focused on the game.”

On that Saturday, Dax McCarty played all 90 minutes in the Fire’s 4-1 win over Colorado and harnessed the “positive emotions” he felt from the previous few days. He also got decent rest, since the night before the game, Jennifer said Dax McCarty could sleep at home instead of at the hospital.

And the Fire captain also benefited from even more patience and understanding from Jennifer. She was going to leave the hospital early Saturday, but instead waited an extra few hours so Dax McCarty could play in the match, pick up her and their newborn son so they could be together to introduce Callum to their place and two French bulldogs.

“I wanted to be there for that,” Dax McCarty said, “so I have to give a huge shout-out to my wife and thank her.”

Understandably, Dax McCarty had gone through numerous emotions as he was in the hospital with his wife: fatigue, anxiety, and finally relief and happiness when Jennifer and son Callum came through everything healthy.

“Everything came together in the universe to make it a perfect couple of days where everything went right,” Dax McCarty said.