After packing enough career and life changes into one month to make anyone need a few days to unwind, Dax McCarty instead wasted no time diving into his next adventure.
After completing his duties with the U.S. Men's National Team, McCarty arrived in Chicago Fire preseason camp late Monday to participate in his first training session with his new team Tuesday in Fort Myers.
His arrival signified the end of what had been a very unique January for the 29-year-old, who got married, made a long-awaited return to the U.S. National Team setup, and was traded unexpectedly from the New York Red Bulls to Chicago all in a matter of days.
In the more immediate, Tuesday also marked the beginning of his tenure under head coach Veljko Paunovic and a new opportunity in the Windy City. Afterward, McCarty was made available to local and national media and spoke at length about his seismic move to Chicago.
“Obviously a lot happened and there’s a lot going on,” he said. “Certainly a roller coaster of emotions. First of all, I was extremely happy. I got married and everything went well. Got to national team camp and obviously got the news (of the trade). A little shocked, a little angry, a little sad -- realizing your career is changing so drastically -- and then just driven and focused to do well in national team camp. Then, excited about the opportunity to come to a new team, a team that clearly was very interested in signing me and acquiring my services.”
Crediting Bruce Arena and his USMNT teammates for helping him digest news of his trade, McCarty -- who played 63 minutes in the USMNT’s 1-0 friendly win over Jamaica Friday -- spoke candidly about his approach toward integrating himself into the Fire roster at this point in preseason.
“I’m going to be myself,” he said. “I’m going to try 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.”
In that aspect, a winning locker room culture was something McCarty referred to repeatedly as a crucial part of an organization with championship aspirations. While that’s greater than any single person, he believes that is an area where he can contribute significantly.
“It’s not just one player,” he said. “It’s not just one coach. It’s the entire organization from the top all the way to the bottom. Form the owner, to the president, to the GM, to the head coach, to all the players, to the kit staff, to the field crew, every single person at a club has to be pulling in the same direction. Every single person in the club has to know that this club is going to be about winning and nothing else will be accepted.
“I’ve said this to (GM) Nelson (Rodríguez), I’ve said this to Pauno," he continued. "This isn’t new. This is how I feel. I’ve told them that I’m not the type of guy, I’m not the type of player that is going to be OK with being average and having another losing season. I guess that’s part of the reason why they’re bringing me in, to try to change that culture a little bit.”
In the wake of McCarty’s signing, Rodríguez was candid about his desire to acquire the midfielder’s services after receiving glowing recommendations of him from around the league. With a whirlwind month behind him, McCarty is now focused on paying forward that good faith on the field.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “It’s a feeling of pride that they did everything they could to go and get me, and now I have to go and do a job on the field to repay their faith in me. I’m looking forward to getting it going.”