Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty will be the first to tell you that ideally he’d have spent last week gearing up to captain his side towards a run in the 2018 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
However, with his offseason beginning in earnest, McCarty’s prep shifted into an opportunity to be part of MLSsoccer.com’s live studio coverage of the Eastern and Western Conference Knockout Round matches last week at the league’s headquarters in New York City. Stationed alongside co-hosts Andrew Wiebe, Calen Carr, Matthew Doyle and Bobby Warshaw, McCarty brought his trademark quick wits and sharp understanding of the game to compliment the MLSsoccer.com crew’s analysis.
Having returned to Chicago to participate in offseason training this week, Chicago-Fire.com caught up with McCarty to talk through his experience on-air and discuss his views on broadcast as a potential post-playing career endeavor.
Chicago-Fire.com: How was your experience being a part of MLSsoccer.com’s 2018 MLS Cup Playoff coverage during last week’s knockout round?
Dax McCarty: “It was fantastic. I think the office over there at MLS headquarters, I think they do a great job. I think they’ve really expanded their coverage and their content to give to the fans of the league, and I think it’s a really professional setup they have going on there. Like I said on set, I would have rather been playing obviously, but that was the next best thing – to be able to go and just talk soccer with those guys.”
C-F.com: How might you -- as well as your MLSsoccer.com cohosts -- assess your performance on-air?
DM: “You’d have to ask them how they assess it. They’re pretty nice to me to my face. I don’t know what they say behind my back (laughs). For me, it’s something I really enjoy doing. I’m a student of the game. I love the game. I would watch the games anyway, even if I wasn’t going to be talking about them. I really enjoy doing it. As far as the way I see the game, obviously I’m a little biased but I think I see the game in a certain way that I can express to fans that’s maybe a little different view of what they have. Obviously there’s always things you can clean up. It’s like anything you do. It’s like if you play a game, you go back and you watch the film and you see how you can improve. I want to do that when it comes to analyzing the game and talking about the game on camera. It’s a lot harder than you think. Once you get up there and once I get talking about the game, sometime I talk too much and I don’t shut up, so I’m going to have to work on that.”
C-F.com: What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced so far in being an on-air analyst in a live format:
DM: “You’re not always prepared for everything that’s going to be thrown your way. The best thing to do is to study the games, study the teams, make sure that you’ve done your homework. For me, it’s easy because I’ve been in this league for 13 years now. I know a lot of the players in this league. I know, for the most part, how every team plays. Then it’s just about articulating that in a certain way so that the fans understand your point of view. For me, just being on your toes, being able to think on your feet. Having answers in the back of your head for when you’re asked questions. Then, just having fun with it. I think that’s something that gets lost in the shuffle of those shows and trying to talk about the game. You don’t want to be robotic. Nobody wants to see a robot up there just giving their opinion. You want to have fun with it. You want to be opinionated, but you also want to be respectful.”
C-F.com: How did you discover that this was something you might be good at?
DM: “It’s something that I think MLS was really active in trying to seek out players that played in the league to be able to talk about different games. I think they realize that they have some talented guys in their studios that don’t play the game anymore, but I also think that they like the perspective of guys that still play. I have a good relationship with a lot of the staff in the league office. They probably think that in some of my interviews I’ve done that I talk way too much, and they wanted to take advantage of that and use that on their set. It’s been really fun so far.”
C-F.com: What is your relationship like with members of the North American soccer broadcast landscape?
DM: “I’m still really early in the process of going about seeing if this is a future that I want for myself or that I can have for myself. I’m trying to talk to as many people as possible. I’m trying to be a sponge. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the business and the industry. I’ve played with or against a lot of the guys that are currently doing this. It’s always kind of like going back to school, trying to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. I have a lot of guys that I don’t necessarily try to model my approach or my analysis after, but I do like a lot of the things they do.
I know Stu Holden really well. He’s done great. I know Jamie Watson down in Minnesota who’s done a very good job down there. I’ve played against Taylor Twellman a lot. I’ve played against Kyle Martino. Really enjoy the job that he does. All these different guys, you can learn from them. Even Alexi (Lalas). I think Alexi does a really good job. He has a role to play in the American soccer scene. He’s a guy that constantly gets conversation started. All these different guys have their different strengths and their weaknesses that they work on. That’s just something that as you get older and as you get more experienced, you can learn more about yourself in terms of what’s going to work for you.”
C-F.com: Do you see broadcast as a potential post-playing career endeavor?
DM: “It’s something that I’ve thought about. It's something that I’ve talked to my wife about. The reality is that no one can play forever. Father Time, it comes for everyone as they say. I still have a lot to prove as a player. It’s something that’s in the back of my head in terms of when that time does come, something that is an option for me and I want to explore that option more. Like I said, I’m feeling really good. I still think after a season like we just had with the Fire that I’m even hungrier now than I ever have been -- than when I came into the league as an 18-year-old -- to prove myself and to prove to this league and to Fire fans that I’m still a top player in this league. Ultimately, if you’re not going to drive yourself, no one is going to be there to do the work for you. I push myself every day. I’m really eager to get back out on the field next year and to prove that last year is not going to happen again.”