BULLS RUN: HEY DAX, YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR

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The date was June 27, 2011.

The Red Bulls were looking to change the dynamic of their team. Despite having big stars such as Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario in the fold, New York struggled to integrate its new pieces effectively and was languishing in the standings.

It was time for a change. Then-General Manager Erik Solér decided to pull the trigger on a stunning trade. New York would send De Rosario — a seven-time MLS All-Star — to rivals DC United for a then-24-year-old central midfielder named Dax McCarty.

It was a move that raised many eyebrows around the league. After all, De Rosario had just joined the Red Bulls during the previous offseason and had a track record of success. McCarty was a talented youngster, but had yet to find constancy in his stints with FC Dallas and DC United.

But Solér saw something special in McCarty and gambled that the younger player would give the Red Bulls the right type of balance they needed desperately.

“Dax is an exciting young player who will immediately add his dynamic style of play to our midfield,” said Solér at of the trade at the time. “He is an excellent two-way player who will contribute both to our defense and to our attack for seasons to come.”

Those words turned out to be prophetic.

The now 28-year-old has been a consummate professional from the moment he made his Red Bulls debut on July 2, 2011. He has been everything anyone could have hoped for in midfield – a helpful screen in front of the defense and the architect of most of the Red Bulls’ attacking moves.

It’s why his All-Star berth is well-deserved. McCarty will be the lone Red Bulls’ representative on the 2015 MLS All-Star Team after being named as an injury replacement by Commissioner Don Garber for New York City FC midfielder Frank Lampard.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said last Saturday. “When it’s unexpected like that, it’s even more exciting. [I’m] definitely proud, humbled and honored to be joining the team.”

The numbers this season for the Winter Park, FL native merit the selection. According to whoscored.com, McCarty is tied for fourth in average tackles made per match (3.7). He’s also second in average passes made per game with 66.5 per match and second on the Red Bulls with five assists this season. McCarty has been the model of consistency, something that his head coach appreciates.

“[Dax] has had a very good season,” Jesse Marsch said to the media after the selection was announced. “He’s established himself in the group as a true captain and he’s gotten better as [the season] has gone on.”

McCarty remained humble about the selection and said he took more pride in being a representative of the Red Bulls’ franchise.

“I’m very proud and honored, but I’ve never been about the individual accolades and I never will be,” he said. “That being said, to represent the club, to have it being my first time going to an All-Star Game, I’m flattered.”

A LOOK AHEAD: RED BULLS AT UNION SATURDAY

Red Bulls Union
7-6-5 (29 Points) Record 6-7-6 (24 Points)
W-2
Streak L-1
3-3-4 (Road) Home/Road Record 5-2-4 (Home)
3rd Conference Position 8th
29 Goals 26
1.52 Goals Per Game 1.23
23 Goals Allowed 34
1.21 Goals Allowed Per Game 1.61
Bradley Wright-Phillips (8) Top Goal Scorer C.J. Sapong (6)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (6) Assists Cristian Maidana (9)

If there’s one team that has been pain to the Red Bulls this season, it’s the Philadelphia Union.

Philly has beaten New York twice this season, both instances at Red Bull Arena. The Union pulled off the upset on May 24 with a 2-0 win in Harrison, NJ. They then knocked the Red Bulls out from the US Open Cup by outlasting the home side on penalties last Tuesday.

[The matches] have been very similar,” Marsch said after the Open Cup loss. “Philly has our number right now, so good for them. The good news is we play them again Aug. 1, so we won’t let that derail us. We’ll be ready to recharge our batteries and go again.”

Marsch’s men will get another chance for revenge Saturday, as they head down the Turnpike to take on the Union. Live coverage gets underway at 7 PM on MSG.

The key to the Union’s success has been the ability to hit the Red Bulls in transition. During the May 24 encounter, the Union took the three points despite being out-possessed in the match. New York enjoyed a 65.5-34.5 split of possession on May 24 and had even more of the ball in the Open Cup match. Despite Philadelphia being down to 10 men due to a red card to Conor Casey, the Red Bulls were only able to find the net once and suffered a heartbreaking loss in the shootout.

“That’s two games against Philly where you feel like we’re in control for a lot of the game, but we’re just unable to make plays and punish them,” Marsch said. “And on the other side, they were able to make plays and punish us.”