MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Bradley Wright-Phillips was on a cross-country flight when he received a long text from Dax McCarty. It was the kind of text he knew required an immediate phone call. The eventual call was part making sense of a trade that stung them both, and it was also part goodbye.
A day later, Wright-Phillips addressed assembled journalists at an MLS media roundtable and expressed his dismay over seeing the Red Bulls captain shipped to the Fire.
"He’s one of them guys. I don’t care what kind of player you bring in. Even if you brought in Messi, you’ll still miss Dax," Wright-Phillips said. "He’s a lot more than a good football player to our team. There’s time in the season where it was hard, and it was getting tougher, and Dax would get us out of those situations.
"It’s tough. He’s a great player and a great man, and is just amazing in the dressing room," he added. "He’s a born captain. There’s not many players that are supposed to be captains, but Dax is one of them.
"He’ll definitely be hard to replace."
McCarty was traded on Monday to the Chicago Fire for $400,000 in allocation money. The trade came as a shock to Red Bulls fans, but was a calculated maneuver by a Red Bulls front office determined to integrate talented young midfielders Tyler Adams and Sean Davis. Wright-Phillips had high praise for both, offering comments that might be some comfort for concerned Red Bulls fans worried about how McCarty will be replaced.
"Sean Davis is one of the best youngsters I’ve been around," Wright-Phillips said. "He’s got an old head on his shoulders and he’s a very good player. It’s obviously going to take him a while to reach those heights, but I do think he has the mentality and the ability to be a Red Bulls captain. I’ve said this, he’s captain material and a very good player."
Davis played well when given opportunities to start, sliding into McCarty's spot for a handful of matches.
Though Davis is expected to be the front runner to replace McCarty, U.S. Under-20 midfielder Adams is widely regarded as a future star and should push for playing time in 2017.
"He’s a beast, that guy," Wright-Phillips said of Adams. "You wouldn't believe his age when he’s around the training ground. Once he gets out onto the field he’s in the zone. He’s not fazed by names or faces, he gets out and he gets the job done. He’s a very good player. I think if Red Bulls can keep Sean Davis and Tyler, they’ve got a bright future ahead of them. Those two in the midfield can be very, very good."