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Inside the Opposition: The New York Red Bulls and Dax McCarty

The 2015 Supporters' Shield Champions will have to rely on the consistency of their captain amid uncertainty in the back four.

Dax McCarty (left) fighting for a loose ball with Sebastian Giovinco in the Red Bulls' 2-0 loss to Toronto FC on March 6th at Red Bull Arena.
Dax McCarty (left) fighting for a loose ball with Sebastian Giovinco in the Red Bulls' 2-0 loss to Toronto FC on March 6th at Red Bull Arena.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the 2015 MLS Season, the New York Red Bulls found themselves in a perilous situation to say the least. Having fired beloved coach Mike Petke and unsuccessfully attempting to calm the infuriated supporters at a club meeting, all signs pointed towards a fruitless 2015 campaign.

Instead, the New York Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield with the best overall record in the MLS regular season.

Many factors were influential in this outcome; the stellar play of Luis Robles in goal, the emergence of Matt Miazga and Damien Perrinelle as an elite center-back pair, and above all, the implementation of Jesse Marsch's high press system allowed the Red Bulls to overcome the odds in 2015.

A player on the Red Bulls who often flies under the radar, however, is Dax McCarty. The defensive midfielder is crucial in the team's flexible 4-2-2-2 formation. Playing alongside former Impact midfielder Felipe, McCarty acts as a shield to protect the back four, which is now a weaker group than it was a year ago, with Perrinelle out with injury and Miazga being sold to Chelsea of the English Premier League.

However, McCarty is equally as important to his team's attack. While in previous seasons NYRB have lined up in a 4-2-3-1, the Red Bulls have switched to a system which affords Sacha Klejstan the opportunity to roam into pockets of space behind Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Lloyd Sam and Mike Grella remain on the wings, with the latter sometimes acting as a second striker to compliment BWP. McCarty's offensive role is to launch the attack with cutting through balls. In the 4-2-2-2, Klejstan is able to find more room in between the defense and midfield of the opposition, then to be met with a ball from McCarty.

In order to halt the Red Bull's attack it will be important for the Impact's attacking midfielders to be active defensively. Piatti and Shipp can't allow McCarty to hold the ball for extended periods of time, because he is capable of picking the pass to unlock a team's defense, even from within his own half.

In addition, it will be key for the Impact's attacking group to bypass McCarty, as he is stout defensively, while the strength of the New York back four remains to be seen.

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