Dax McCarty criticizes Red Bulls front office, says Fire need to improve culture

Dax McCarty criticizes Red Bulls front office, says Fire need to improve culture

There has been plenty of drama surrounding Dax McCarty's trade from the New York Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire.

On Tuesday, McCarty talked to local and national reporters via a conference call about his last couple weeks, which he described as a "whirlwind." McCarty got married, joined the U.S. national team for training camp and got traded to the Fire all within the span of a few days.

On top of that, McCarty has been vocal about his displeasure with how the Red Bulls handled the trade. He spoke for a half hour with reporters, giving bold responses on a number of different topics.

There's what McCarty said about how the Red Bulls handled the trade.

"I didn’t think they handled the situation in a very classy way."

There's McCarty's view on what he calls a losing culture that has plagued the Fire.

"From the outside looking in it looks like losing almost became accepted and a culture of losing with this club almost became the norm. From the front office, down to the players, down to the all the staff. It almost just seemed like they were indifferent about winning and that's crazy to me. That's insane."

There's McCarty offering an insight into the current drama within the Red Bulls regarding sporting director Ali Curtis' potential ousting.

"I don't think Ali Curtis had anything to do with the decision."

Saying that a team's sporting director didn't have anything to do with a decision to trade the team's captain is a huge bombshell to those in Red Bull land. McCarty said it was coach Jesse Marsch's decision and Marsch was the one who told him about the trade.

[MORE FIRE: Matt Polster could be out seven weeks with a knee strain]

As for McCarty's view of his new club's brass, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic flew out to speak with McCarty when he was in camp with the U.S. national team. Both sides have said the meeting went well and was productive, with Paunovic and Rodriguez saying they would be patient with McCarty amid all the emotional elements.

"It was a good meeting and I think for the most part they understood where I was coming from," McCarty said. "They respected the fact that I still needed a little bit of time to process everything and let it sink in, gather my emotions and my thoughts. I'm very happy that they gave me that time and they weren't bombarding me with all kinds of requests for me to do things and all that."

McCarty flew to Florida to join the Fire in preseason training on Monday night. Tuesday morning was his first training session with his new team.

The personal side of the trade has been the focus with both the timing and McCarty's reaction taking focus away from the business side. McCarty admitted he understood the trade from a business sense saying Sean Davis, who replaced him when he got injured against the Fire, "played fantastic" in his place last year.

Davis, 23, is younger and cheaper than the 29-year-old McCarty. With that in mind, McCarty said he "always knew it was a possibility" he could be traded, but still felt like he had earned the chance to have a say in a move.

"If you're moving a veteran player on a high salary for business reasons and you have players you think can step in and do the job that have lower salaries, that are younger that you need to get minutes to, I'm the first one to say it's a great move," McCarty said. "There's no player that's bigger than any club and that's something that I understand full well. I do think that if you're a club that preaches family and I do think if you're a club that preaches doing things the right way and trying to treat players the right way, then I don't think you go and trade a guy who you say that you relied on a lot and that is your captain behind his back without at least telling him that, 'Hey these are some possibilities, unfortunately we have to move you, do you have any say in the matter? You just got married, you have a wife. This is a big moment in your career.'

"I thought I at least earned that and I thought that it would have been hard for the Red Bulls to do that or say that to me because if something falls through they never know where my head will be, but I would have had a lot more respect for the way they handled the situation if that's how it would have gone down."

With his time with the Red Bulls now behind him, McCarty is focused on trying to turn the Fire around as much as he can, adding that in MLS all it takes is a couple moves to become a contender.

"I'm not the type of player that is going to be OK with being average and having another losing season and I guess that's part of the reason why they're bringing me in," McCarty said.

Back from Tulsa, Joey Calistri returns to Fire with more confidence

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Back from Tulsa, Joey Calistri returns to Fire with more confidence

While the Chicago Fire was having a breakout season in MLS, Joey Calistri was helping the Tulsa Roughnecks have a breakout season of their own in the USL.

Calistri, a homegrown midfielder from Deerfield who made 14 appearances as a rookie with the Fire last year, has been on loan with Tulsa since the start of the season and has helped the Roughnecks go from having the worst record in the league in 2016 to being in a playoff spot currently. Calistri made 16 appearances, 13 of which were starts, and totaled five goals and two assists.

The Fire recalled Calistri this week and he was back in training. The 23-year-old could be another attacking option off the bench for the Fire.

“I always knew that if I played well enough hopefully I would get a shot to come back, but they just called me up and said we’re flying you back so I didn’t ask so many questions,” Calistri said on Tuesday.

Calistri racked up 1,235 minutes, which is nearly four times the total he got with the Fire last season (348). He was a regular starter while primarily playing as an attacker on the right side.

“I was able to get consistent 90 minutes every week, which is huge for fitness, for confidence, for everything and getting a couple goals out there helps the confidence,” Calistri said.

The Northwestern product said rosters aren’t as deep in the USL, but praised the level of play overall. He noted that the intensity is high because the players are trying to earn a spot in MLS.

On top of getting a confidence boost and gaining experience, Calistri said he was trying to work on his play near the goal.

“The thing I wanted to improve was creating goals and creating chances for other guys,” Calistri said. “I think my distribution was something that got a lot better out there and I was able to calm down more in the final third, find the final pass and do a lot better with that.”

Now that he’s back with the Fire, Calistri is hoping to make a bigger impact than he did last year. Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez noted in May how important it was for Calistri to get more playing time.

“I think this extended playing time has been very good for him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s proven to be what he was in our academy and what he was at Northwestern, which is a guy who finds a way to score goals and menace defenses.”

Calistri doesn’t know what his role will be with the Fire this year. He said coach Veljko Paunovic hasn’t communicated any specifics yet. Calistri doesn’t even know if the Fire intend to keep him around all year or send him back to Tulsa at some point.

One thing he does know about the Fire is that the team is very different from a year ago. Calistri was able to watch every game the Fire played and noticed the changes within the team.

“The thing I noticed was how calm we were on the ball,” he said. “I think that was probably the biggest difference I noticed. When we knocked the ball around the back there was a purpose and there was an identity to who we were. We didn’t just pass the ball around because we didn’t have options. We did that to stretch the other team out and then from then we were able to find pockets and little spaces behind.”

As Calistri came back from loan, defender Patrick Doody went on loan to Saint Louis FC, the Fire's previous USL affiliate. Doody, another homegrown player, has played there on loan each of the past two years. Doody hasn’t made an appearance for the Fire since his rookie year in 2015.

Why the next two weeks are crucial in MLS' Eastern Conference race

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Why the next two weeks are crucial in MLS' Eastern Conference race

As Major League Soccer teams return from the Gold Cup break this week, the Chicago Fire are tied for the best record in the league.

The Fire’s 11-3-5 record, good for 38 points, has virtually assured the team of a playoff spot with nearly half the season still to play. Sports Club Stats has MLS playoff odds, which give the Fire and Toronto FC both a 99.9 percent chance of making the postseason.

So if the Fire’s baseline goal of making the playoffs is a near certainty at this point, what’s next? The Fire will want to strive for a first-round bye by getting one of the top two spots in the Eastern Conference. The Fire and Toronto are currently five points ahead of third-place New York City FC. Those two teams play tonight in The Bronx before the Fire head to Yankee Stadium to take on NYCFC on Saturday.

“We have to see how they play, obviously against Toronto, another direct opponent in our quest for the top of our conference,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said on Tuesday. “We’ll see how they do, how they’re going to play. We’ll see also what lineup they will play and that’s a good opportunity for us. We also know that that result is going to impact for sure their approach against us on Saturday.”

NYCFC could either fall out of the race or jump right into the thick of it in the next two weeks. Even after hosting both Toronto and the Fire in a four-day span, the David Villa-led team heads to Canada for another meeting with Toronto FC on July 30.

A look at the remaining schedule for the top three teams in the Eastern Conference standings shows the Fire may have the toughest road ahead. The table below shows how many games each team has at home and away as well as total games vs. teams currently in playoff spots and away games against those current playoff teams.

  Home games Away games Playoff teams At playoff teams
Fire 7 8 7 5
Toronto 8 7 6 3
NYCFC 8 7 8 2

The Fire have one fewer home game than Toronto and New York, but the real difference is in those away playoff games. The Fire have five such contests remaining (at NYCFC, at West-leading Sporting Kansas City, at Columbus, at San Jose and the season finale at Houston) and are 0-2-3 in those games so far this year.

Toronto has trips to Yankee Stadium and Toyota Park still on its schedule, but only one other road game against a playoff team. That's in Atlanta, the team that sits in fourth in the conference. TFC's disadvantage is that the Reds will be without Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley presumably for both of the key meetings with NYCFC while those two are competing in the Gold Cup knockout stage.

New York has two meetings, both one home and away, against the Fire and Toronto. In addition, NYCFC hosts three of the Western Conference's best teams in Sporting KC, Portland and Houston in September. With ground to make up in the standings, David Villa and Co. will need to do well in those games against the Fire and Toronto to fight for a first-round playoff bye and perhaps a long-shot run at the Supporters' Shield.

Regardless of what lies further ahead, the next two weeks should go a long way to shaping the race at the top of the Eastern Conference when the final stretch of the season approaches.