The difficult decision by the New York Red Bulls to trade their captain on Monday was surely not an easy one, but at the end of the day it was likely the right one.
The Red Bulls parted ways with Dax McCarty on Monday, sending him to the Chicago Fire for $400,000 in allocation money.
Sporting director Ali Curtis is perhaps “selling high” in terms of McCarty’s value, sending a player who had a strong 2015 season that culminated in a Best XI nod and is now in camp with the United States national team to a Fire team desperate to be competitive. McCarty still has value, as he's a feisty and tenacious ball-winner.
The Red Bulls, though, certainly have depth at the position. Not only are Sasha Kljestan and Felipe standouts at the MLS level in the center of the midfield, young Sean Davis filled in admirably last summer when McCarty went down for over a month with an injury. Also waiting behind those three is Tyler Adams, the teenager who was just called to the U-20 national team.
So while McCarty is considered among the best in the league at his position, he was also paid $400,000 in guaranteed salary last year and missed considerable time with an injury.
And in Davis and Adams, the Red Bulls have quality players who are younger, more mobile and in a league with a stringent salary cap (unless you’re the Los Angeles Galaxy), both players check off the box of being good values.
What makes this a difficult trade isn’t the on the field component where getting that amount of allocation money for a player set to turn 30-years old is problematic. It is who and what McCarty was on and off the field that makes this a tough trade to see go down.
He was gritty, a fighter, a kid born and bred outside Orlando who played college soccer at North Carolina and yet whose dogged determination was every bit the embodiment of New York City. McCarty would make it a habit to finally be the midfielder that this franchise needed to do the little things, the engine that made the superstars around him click. That he chipped in with a clutch goal now and again certainly didn’t hurt his stock.
In a city of hipsters he seemed at one with the city’s pulse; he took to the Big Apple and would take the PATH train to games. He loved the city, loved Red Bull Arena and was the first one to volunteer for a hospital visit or pose for photos with fans who were at practice. He bled the team, the longest tenured member of the franchise who truly could call New York home. Retiring in the red and white would be something he talked about.
But in a business where the on the field matters, what the Fire offered was simply too much. The $400,000 in allocation money is believed to be the largest sum ever traded within the league for any one player. There is also the fact that Davis was tremendous last year in filling-in for McCarty when he was injured and that Adams has a bright future for club and country. In many ways, this was a zero-sum from the front office.
It was, as they say, a deal too good to pass up. To get that level of money in a trade while clearing that much space under the salary, all the while allowing two young players to take the next step, made this a difficult but tough decision for New York.
But one that might well have Red Bulls fans down the road rejoicing over the final product.