Dax McCarty: Red Bulls Need To Defend To Win MLS Cup

With the New York Red Bulls (15-9-9) set to wrap up the regular season vs. rivals Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 1:30 pm on NBC), we caught up with Orlando’s own Dax McCarty to talk about his progression this season, the upcoming playoffs beginning next week, and the rivalry against the Union.

Listen to the audio below:

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McCarty has been widely acclaimed as the Red Bulls’ best and most consistent player this season.  His tireless work ethic as a defensive midfielder/deep lying playmaker for New York has grabbed attention across the league.  And on a team that has a name such as Thierry Henry on it, and a league actually rich in his particular position, that is very high praise.

“Anytime you’re spoken of that highly and in the same breath as guys like Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, it’s good and it’s a little bit of vindication for last season,” McCarty told Sports Talk Florida.

Last year, Dax had joined DC United in the preseason, but was traded to New York after only 13 games for Dwayne De Rosario, who would eventually become league MVP at the end of the season with 16 goals and 12 assists.  But De Rosario’s case is a rare one.  Usually, it would take a player some time to gel in his new home after a mid season swap.  It did take McCarty time to gel with his new team, and as a result of the contrasting seasons he and De Rosario had, was subject to some unjustified criticism.

“I think I was just more consistent this year.  I played with more confidence,” McCarty said.  “I just tried to look at what made me successful as a player in Dallas and what made me part of a successful team, and I tried to bring those qualities to New York.  Luckily, it’s been able to come through this year.”

That confidence has shown and Dax clearly embodies the way the Red Bulls need to play if they want to be successful in the playoffs.  New York may enter the postseason with the most goals against of any participants.  They currently have 46 GA.  Only the LA Galaxy have more with 47.  If they are going to make a run, defense needs to be the focus, and the defensive midfielder, who will be mostly charged with protecting the back four, made that very clear.

“Defensively, we have to be good.  I know (in attack) we’re going to create chances.  We’re probably going to score goals.  But it comes down to our mentality and our willingness to defend,”  McCarty said.  “I think our latest game against Kansas City was our best game we’ve played this season defensively…  We got the shutout, we limited them to one shot on goal and one chance at the end, which was preventable.  But our pressure was fantastic.  We played high pressure all over the field.  We didn’t let them breathe.  In this league, that’s how you have to play.  That’s what you have to do to win.  We know the playoffs are a step up in intensity, so if we can bring our intensity up a level and make sure we focus on our defensive game and all 11 players are defending as a team, then I think our attacking game will take care of itself.  We will be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.”

Speaking of Kansas City, McCarty told us Sporting was the most difficult team to play against in his opinion, but he wants the challenge of playing them in the postseason.

“They’re physical and they like a good battle.  That’s how they’ve been successful this year; being physical and kind of making the game ugly.  Sometimes it doesn’t always make for a pretty game but they make it really tough for you to play against them,” McCarty said.  “But I think if we match their intensity, we match up well with them.”