Chicago Fire

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.

Fire fans are throwing a killer party for the club's 20th birthday


Fire fans are throwing a killer party for the club's 20th birthday

Most MLS teams are too young to have substantial history, but Fire fans are doing their part to celebrate the 20 years of Chicago Fire soccer.

A group of supporters is putting the work in to throw a party for the club in the vein of a fan convention — except this one isn’t run by a team. The small group of fans from the Fire’s independent supporters’ association, Section 8, is pooling efforts to throw a killer birthday bash and inviting former players and coaches to return for the celebration.

The Chicago Fire 20th Anniversary will take place on Oct. 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center. That’s 20 years to the day since the club’s first general manager, Peter Wilt, announced the name of the then-MLS expansion team at Navy Pier. Wilt will be among the star-studded list of attendees.

“You’re basically taking a fan convention and cramming it into four hours,” said Scott Greene, the chair of Section 8’s board of directors.

Greene was at the anniversary party five years ago and the plan is to continue them every five years. He said the 15th anniversary was “pretty flawless” in the way it ran and they are hoping to replicate that this time around with a similar type of program.

“It was astounding from the fact of what the Fire means for former players,” Greene said. “I think that always takes you aback at their experience at what the Fire means... Their willingness to come out to Chicago to interact with the fans is remarkable.”

The list of confirmed guests already boasts some of the biggest names in the team’s history and more are expected, although still unconfirmed. Five players from the original 1998 team, which won both the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup, are already confirmed to be attending: Lubos Kubik, Diego Gutierrez, Jerzy Podbrozny, Roman Kosecki and current broadcaster Frank Klopas.

“It’s always great, the ability now to reconnect with all the old friends,” Klopas said during the broadcast of the D.C. United match this past Saturday. “I pretty much run into a lot of my old teammates that are still involved in the league here, but the ability to spend some time with Kosecki and Podbrozny, guys that you don’t see that much. It’s fantastic to reconnect with some of our old fans and some of the new fans and talk about some great moments from the past, but also some fantastic moments where the team is now.”

Longtime Fire defender Gonzalo Segares, 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee and 1994 Ballon d’Or winner Hristo Stoichkov also will be attending.

In order to get the players to come to Chicago, Section 8 has worked to raise funds to fly the players in, which is especially tricky with those coming in from out of the country. Greene said ticket sales are the main revenue portion, but they are also accepting donations and there is a silent auction.

The auction includes a game-worn Michael Bradley national team jersey from a Gold Cup semifinal this year. Bradley is the son of the Fire’s first coach, Bob Bradley, and grew up in Chicagoland while his dad coached the team. There is also the press of the Bastian Schweinsteiger poster that ran in the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s a ton of coordination, but from a fan’s point of view it’s pretty awesome to email people,” Greene said. “I sponsored Andy Herron and it’s really cool to interact with him. I’m interacting with my sporting heroes. That’s really cool from being a volunteer and organizing this, the logistics of who’s coming.”

The club has helped provide videos and photos as part of the program and the beer list would make some brew fests envious. Chicagoland breweries Half Acre, BuckleDown (which has a Section 8 Pale Ale), Two Brothers (which will have a 20 Twenty-Plus Pilsner Lager which is named for the founding year of the brewery, which matches the Fire’s founding year) and Goose Island will have beers at the party. Goose Island is making a black lager made exclusively for the party.

Tickets and more information are available through the Fire 20th Anniversary website.

With playoff spot nearly secure, 'now it’s about how good' Fire can be


With playoff spot nearly secure, 'now it’s about how good' Fire can be

Things have been on the upswing for the Fire for the past couple weeks, but the players recognize the sharpness of the team’s unbeaten run earlier in the season still eludes them.

The 3-0 win against D.C. United on Saturday wasn’t all-out domination, but was the only comfortable win in the past seven games. With five games remaining in the regular season, and a playoff spot virtually locked up, the Fire is hoping to reach its heights from earlier in the year.

“We can start mentally getting ready to treat I think these next five games like they are playoff games, mentally getting ready for it,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “We haven’t clinched anything yet so I don’t think we can take any of that for granted, but obviously with a couple good results in a row now, we’re feeling pretty comfortable about making the playoffs. Now it’s about positioning. We want to get a first-round bye so, like I said, these last five games for us, from my perspective, are playoff games.”

New York City FC is three points ahead of the Fire for second place in the Eastern Conference. The two teams play at Toyota Park on Sept. 30.

They already met in Yankee Stadium on July 22. That game was the first in a stretch of seven games in which the Fire lost six. NYCFC suffered an early red card and still managed to beat the Fire. The Fire’s struggles to create and convert quality chances was evident in that game and continued for many of the next several games.

The three-goal outburst against D.C. was a sign that the Fire may be getting the attack back in gear. David Accam, whose six chances created were most in MLS this past weekend, said the attack is not quite back to its peak.

“At the moment we are creating more chances,” Accam said. “We’re not sharp in front of goal. Before we were. We were creating, we were sharp, but now we are only creating. We’re not sharp. We are still working in training at trying to be sharper in front of goal in games.”

Defensively, the Fire has allowed one goal in the past three matches. In the previous eight matches, the team allowed 19 goals. As Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster returned from injury, and Joao Meira is right behind after coming off the bench against D.C., the Fire’s defensive record seems to have improved.

That doesn’t mean the team has a clean bill of health. Both Bastian Schweinsteiger (calf) and Juninho (knee) were not at training on Tuesday. Luis Solignac (thigh) and Daniel Johnson (knee) were both limited to running. Even without Schweinsteiger and Juninho, the Fire produced in a convincing win against D.C.

McCarty wasn’t worried the team would turn things around, but he has noticed more confidence in the team after getting seven points from the last three games.

“Certainly there’s more confidence in the group,” McCarty said. “We know we’re a good team. We know we can win games. Now it’s about how good can we be? We’re going to have to play our best if we’re going to be successful because I think we’ve shown that if we drop our level, even just a little bit, we’re just not good enough to win games in this league. We have to be very good every time we step on the field because other teams have certain aspects where maybe they’re stronger than us in, but if we can be at our best I like our chances against anyone.”