In January, just days after he had been called up to the US Men’s National Team, two years after he had been named captain of New York Red Bulls, and after a record-setting 198 appearances for his New York club, Dax McCarty was caught completely off-guard when he was suddenly traded to the Chicago Fire in exchange for $400,000 in allocation money.
At the time, the veteran midfielder expressed his frustration at how the New York club, who preached “family” and “trust,” handled the situation. He had called out head coach Jesse Marsch, and verbally expressed his annoyance at how Marsch had gone through with the decision behind McCarty’s back.
Now, four months later, McCarty will be stepping back on the pitch inside Red Bull Arena for the first time since the trade. This time he will be leading his new Chicago team alongside German teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger, and although McCarty surely won’t admit to a revenge of sorts being on his mind, the fact remains that the Fire are in desperate need of a road win.
The Fire are traveling to New York having not won a regular season away match since August. Perhaps that will be the excuse McCarty needs in addressing why this particular match will be more important than the rest.
The Red Bulls will be no easy beast to tame, however, as they are coming off back-to-back shutout wins against D.C. United and Columbus Crew S.C. More than that, both victories were part of their three-game homestead, which they will be wrapping up on Saturday against the Fire.
Plainly stated, Chicago will need more than the fire lit under their red-head mid-fielder’s belly (excuse the terrible puns). Of course, Schweinsteiger’s presence on the field has proven to be incredibly valuable for the Fire, and the emergence of Nemanja Nikolic’s goal-scoring capabilities will give New York another thing to worry about.
Chicago fans will also be excited to see their 2016 goal-scoring leader David Accam off of the injury list. The Ghanaian midfielder/forward was brought off the bench in each of the Fire’s last couple outings, only to make an instant impact in the form of an assist against New England and a goal at Toronto.
On Saturday, it’s assumed that head coach Veljko Paunovic will justifiably name Accam back to the starting XI, and that decision alone could be the difference maker against a New York team that hasn’t conceded a single goal at home this season.
The Fire are currently sitting two points behind New York in the middle of the Eastern Conference table. Saturday’s game will be their second of three-straight away matches before they visit Los Angeles on May 6.
Needless to say, a road win this early in the season – especially against Dax McCarty’s one-time “family” – would be a huge result that would not only lift the Fire out of an away-game rut, but further solidify the team’s early playoff-contention standing.