Watching the Russia-Saudi Arabia match that opened the World Cup was an interesting experience for Fire midfielder Dax -McCarty.

“There were some definite emotions there,” McCarty said. “A little bit of sadness, a little bit of anger that definitely popped up, which I figured there would be. Obviously, you always have in the back of your head that you feel like that you should be there. You should be there representing your country and representing the U.S. It doesn’t quite feel like a normal World Cup without the U.S. there.”

McCarty was an unused substitute on the infamous night of Oct. 10, 2017, when the U.S. lost 2-1 at Trinidad and Tobago to fall out of World Cup qualifying. Though McCarty has made just 13 appearances for the national team, he had worked his way back onto the radar and had a decent chance to head to Russia.

Of course, that wasn’t meant to be.

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“Every week that has passed, there’s more acceptance of what happened and the fact that life goes on,” said McCarty, whose Fire beat Atlanta 1-0 on Wednesday to reach the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals against Louisville City on July 18 at Toyota Park. “You have to move on. Some things are in your control. Some things are out of your control.”

Part of that acceptance is finding a way to enjoy the event as a fan. McCarty said he’s cheering for Lionel Messi and simply taking in the sport at its highest international level. He said it has been “a little easier to watch every day.”

“Definitely a little bittersweet, but now that a couple days have passed and the games are coming every day – there’s a few different games every day – you just try to switch your mentality to just enjoy good soccer and enjoy the World Cup,” McCarty said. “I’m trying to enjoy it. I’m trying to watch the games, and I’m trying to look at it as a fan and trying to root for good soccer.”

Though he’s 31 and recognizes the young talent coming through the U.S. pipeline, McCarty isn’t conceding that his national-team career is over.

“I’m not going to give up hope,” he said. “Nobody really knows the new direction of the program we’re going to be heading in. We don’t have a head coach yet. My mindset when it comes to my national-team career is that hopefully it’s not over. If it is, I did everything I could to give myself the best chance to play and get called in to represent my country. If it’s not over, I will continue to try to do everything I can to make up for the failure that was our qualifying cycle that missed the 2018 World Cup.”