Dax McCarty has been a key cog for the Chicago Fire this season and now he's trying to prove he can be a key player for the U.S. national team.
McCarty played all 90 minutes for the U.S. in the Gold Cup opener Saturday in Nashville. The match ended a 1-1 tie against Panama.
After being virtually frozen out by manager Jurgen Klinsmann, McCarty has been getting regular call-ups under Bruce Arena.
The Gold Cup represents a golden opportunity for McCarty. He has been called in for World Cup qualifiers, but hasn't seen the field. Arena is using the Gold Cup to see some of the reserve and fringe players and find out if anyone deserves more of a look with the World Cup just under a year away.
As a result, McCarty is now expected to get regular minutes and Saturday's game makes it seem that he will. Saturday was his first appearance in a competitive match. It was his eighth cap, but the previous seven were all in friendlies for the 30-year-old.
McCarty said "there was a level of frustration" regarding his lack of call-ups under Klinsmann in a Washington Post story that came out before the tournament began.
“I felt like I deserved more of a chance than I had got, but this is how sports work," McCarty told Steven Goff of the Post. "Some coaches just have preferences for other guys. That’s how it goes. There’s no secret formula where a coach plugs information into a computer and spits out a name. Maybe Jurgen thinks I’m a really good player, and maybe Jurgen thinks I’m a great player in MLS but just doesn’t see it translate to another level.”
McCarty is getting that chance under Arena, and if he wants to push for more playing time, or at least a spot on the World Cup roster, the Gold Cup is an important tournament for him. The same goes for most of the rest of the Gold Cup roster.
Saturday's game wasn't a strong start for the team, but the U.S. will be heavily favored to beat the two remaining opponents in group play, Martinique and Nicaragua, and advance to the quarterfinals.