Marsch: McCarty trade 'unfortunate,' but young midfielders ready to step up

The realities of Major League Soccer created ill will, but the Red Bulls boss is ready to push his young midfield duo.

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The trade shocked Major League Soccer.

The New York Red Bulls sent captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire for $400,000 in allocation money. One of the best midfielders in the league and a person many looked at as the heart of the Red Bulls was headed to an Eastern Conference rival.

I don’t think that the trade and the way it happened honored the relationship that I had with Dax, and the relationship the club had with Dax ...

- Jesse Marsch

Speaking at length for the first time since making the trade, Marsch also admitted there were some regrets about how the deal went down.

“I don’t think that the trade and the way it happened honored the relationship that I had with Dax, and the relationship the club had with Dax, and that’s the unfortunate part,” Marsch said. “When you look around the world when transfers are made, players have to agree to it and then there’s more control of what you do and where you go. Here it doesn’t work that way. That’s just the flat-out reality of our business …

“I wish the circumstances would’ve been different, everything from the timing around his wedding, to the manner in which it caught him by surprise. Yeah, I wish that there was a world we lived in that didn’t put him in that situation. I’ll take responsibility for it and I know that Dax harbors ill will about it and frustration, and I understand that. It’s an incredibly awful situation that he and I may never really have the relationship that we once had. As a coach, I value the relationship with my players, especially my most important ones, and I put a lot into my relationship with Dax and it saddens me, it truly saddens me. But professionally it was a decision as a club that we all felt we needed to make.”

The McCarty trade came at a time where there is much speculation around a potential shake-up occurring at the top levels of the Red Bulls’ front office. Metro New York reported this week that assistant coach Denis Hamlett was acting as the sporting director for the Red Bulls, something that would line up with’s report during the MLS combine that Hamlett was slated to step into that role if Marsch left for Austria.

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Marsch didn’t leave, of course, but sporting director Ali Curtis has been conspicuously absent from anything Red Bulls related, leading to speculation that he and the team are negotiating his exit. When asked if the front office structure remains the same today as it was last season, Marsch hedged.

“For right now, yes,” he said. “There’s been a statement about Ali already and I’ll stick to that.”

Asked if his role would change at all beyond coach of the Red Bulls, Marsch stated, simply: “No.”

The Red Bulls are moving forward in preseason, and Marsch insisted he was pleased with what he had seen from his club in its first week of training. The most eyeballs will be on the young duo charged with replacing McCarty:  Sean Davis and Tyler Adams. The philosophy of trading veterans still in their prime to make room for younger homegrowns is still too uncommon in MLS, but Marsch believes in the duo, and thus far, the two have shown that they are ready to take on bigger roles.

Adams played most of the year with the USL team, but at age 17 has turned heads about his potential at the MLS level. Davis played 21 games last season, starting 11, mostly in place of McCarty when the veteran went down with a broken leg during the season. The 23-year-old homegrown impressed in that time, but he still has plenty of growing to do to be able to replicate McCarty’s impact. He won’t be asked to take on all that McCarty did for the team, Marsch said.

What Sean has to do is continue to establish himself as a great player ... He doesn’t have to be Dax.

- Jesse Marsch

“He doesn’t have to carry that [leadership] burden,” Marsch said. “That will be more on the shoulders of guys like Sacha [Kljestan] and Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. What Sean has to do is continue to establish himself as a great player like he’s already done in his own way and on his own path. He doesn’t have to be Dax. He has to be true to himself and that’s the same with Tyler. And it’s our job here at this club and my job as the coach to help lead them along the path to give them the greatest opportunity of success … It’s about now them being able to establish themselves as great players. Great players at the club, great players with the national team. We really think that highly of their future.”

That confidence was clear when the Red Bulls merged their present path with the future of those young players. The philosophy will be put to its first major test beginning in March.

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Paul Tenorio is a reporter for FourFourTwo. He works as a freelance reporter on Fire home TV broadcasts. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulTenorio.