Nashville SC

Nashville SC officially signs Dax McCarty

Nashville has made official what was initially reported by The Athletic a week ago: Chicago Fire captain Dax McCarty is now a Boy in Gold. From Club release:

NASHVILLE (Nov. 12, 2019) – Nashville Soccer Club announced today it has signed veteran midfielder Dax McCarty from the Chicago Fire in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money, $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and a second round pick (28th overall) in the 2021 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. McCarty becomes the first player to sign with Nashville SC during the MLS two-day trade window.

“Dax is a proven leader and winner and has done so in every club he’s been in throughout his career. He embodies the character and values of what our club will be on and off the field,” said Nashville SC GM Mike Jacobs.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be joining Nashville SC for the club’s inaugural MLS season and beyond,” said McCarty. “The buzz around the club is easy to feel and see. The opportunity and challenge of building something special from the beginning will be a unique experience that I feel privileged to be a part of. I can’t wait to get to Nashville and start preparing for the 2020 season.”

McCarty, who started his senior career with FC Dallas in 2006 as the sixth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, has become the 10th all-time player in the league with 361 regular season appearances (331 as a starter). His experience over the course of his 13-year career split between FC Dallas (2006-11), D.C. United (2011), New York Red Bulls (2011-16) and most recently the Chicago Fire (2017-19) has made him a recognizable leader and mentor on and off the pitch.

Technically, McCarty is a two-way central midfielder who is constantly on the ball and able to dictate play offensively and defensively. He has established himself among the league leaders at his position in touches, pass attempts and recoveries per game, scoring 20 goals and assisting in 58 more during MLS regular season play.

McCarty is a two-time Supporter Shield winner while with the New York Red Bulls in 2013 and 2015, an MLS Best-XI (2015) and a two-time MLS All-Star (2015, 2017).

Internationally, McCarty received his first call-up to the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team ahead of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He then continued with his international development by representing the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team in the 2008 CONCACAF Men Pre-Olympic Tournament where he was voted to the “2008 Best XI” as a midfielder by the CONCACAF Technical Study Group. McCarty’s first full international cap with the U.S. Men’s National Team came on Nov. 14, 2009 in a friendly match against Slovakia. He has since been capped 13 times and won the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup trophy.

McCarty has had a little of a journeyman career. After two years at UNC, the Florida native opted for the MLS SuperDraft, where he was selected by FC Dallas. He spent five years with the team before the Portland Timbers mucked everything up, selecting him in the 2010 Expansion Draft and immediately dealing him to DC United.

Though he spent only half a season with DC, he was the team’s captain during his time in the District. A failed conversion into the attacker at the top of a midfield diamond saw Ben Olsen decide to trade him instead of changing the tactics into something non-insane. He ended up with New York Red Bulls, where he was able to settle back into his comfortable role as a holding midfielder – and where he was once again named team captain (though not until his fourth year with the club).

Another shock trade awaited him at the end of 2016, with a trade to the Chicago Fire. The Fire – surprise! – also made him team captain.

McCarty also has 13 national team caps, but has the unfortunate timing of being an extremely similar player to Michael Bradley (without quite as much athleticism in their earlier years), and a couple months older. There simply wasn’t ever consistent room at the inn for a second Bradley.

Here’s his career statistical output in MLS:

Year Club GP MINS G A
2006 FC Dallas 2 11 0 0
2007 FC Dallas 25 1604 1 7
2008 FC Dallas 17 821 0 2
2009 FC Dallas 28 2340 3 6
2010 FC Dallas 21 1604 1 2
2011 New York Red Bulls 16 1175 0 4
2011 D.C. United 13 946 0 2
2012 New York Red Bulls 33 2918 3 3
2013 New York Red Bulls 30 2582 4 4
2014 NY Red Bulls 31 2661 3 3
2015 NY Red Bulls 32 2777 1 8
2016 NY Red Bulls 27 2268 3 5
2017 Chicago Fire 28 2465 0 5
2018 Chicago Fire 26 2259 0 3
2019 Chicago Fire 32 2850 1 4

As you can see, he’s never bene a huge offensive threat: he’s a true holding midfielder whose defensive stoutness and ability to facilitate from deep (and hit those long diagonals) have been his strengths. Here’s his statistical profile from the past season.

Here’s a highlight reel from his time with NYRB before the trade to Chicago:

If you’re worried about Chicago… having been absolutely terrible this season, I’m here to tell you not to do so. In xG terms, the Fire actually turned out to be the second-best team in Major League Soccer in 2019, despite not even sniffing the playoffs. Under-achieving xG may also be a baked-in quality that reflects on the players (I’d contend smaller than you’d think), but Chicago had the second-best defense in xG terms – only LAFC was better – and a better-than-average defense in strict goals-allowed terms, as well.

Their main issue was an awful conversion rate on offense – which, as we’ve just discussed, doesn’t really reflect on McCarty much at all. Given he was the holding midfielder over former Germany great Bastian Schweinsteiger (who converted to CB to facilitate McCarty’s hold on the CDM position), that says somethin’ about somethin’.

McCarty is obviously no spring chicken: at 32 (turning 33 early in the season), he probably only has a couple years left at a high level. This is quite clearly getting MLS experience on-board for the early days of a new franchise. As a piece that should complement a more-mobile midfield destroyer in Aníbal Godoy – and provide mentorship to younger signings such as Derrick Jones – you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one for the price: at $700,000 last season, McCarty is well into range of a TAM player (though possibly due for a slight pay cut with his advanced age and the lack of state income tax in Tennessee making for more take-home pay anyway).

As signing No. 8, he’s exactly the No. 6 Nashville needs.

See the full (known) Nashville SC 2020 roster here.

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