It was the move that was supposed to put the 2011 New York Red Bulls over the top. New York acquiring Dwayne De Rosario for a couple of "oh, that's swell" players and a 2012 MLS SuperDraft first round pick left Red Bulls fans, this one included, dreaming of goal explosions and routs the likes of which supporters of the franchise had never before witnessed. Such success, of course, never came. De Rosario didn't click with team captain Thierry Henry on the pitch (or in the dressing room according to rumors), the Red Bulls went through a winless streak that saw them plummet down the Major League Soccer standings, and the team eventually sent De Rosario to rivals DC United for midfielder Dax McCarty.
DC, struggling to stay out of the MLS Eastern Conference basement at the time, were the immediate winners of the trade. De Rosario hurt RBNY where it matters the most when the two sides met at Red Bull Arena on July 9, scoring the lone goal of the contest and propelling DC to the 1-0 victory. With DeRo leading the charge, DC climbed up the league standings, flirting with playoff contention until they were mathematically eliminated in mid-October after playing in arguably the most entertaining game of the season, a 1-1 draw with Portland Timbers.
De Rosario was the league's best overall player after being traded to DC. He buried 13 goals and had seven assists while with United in 2011, and he was rightfully selected as the league MVP at the conclusion of the campaign. McCarty, on the other hand, didn't make much of an impact while with the Red Bulls during the second half of the 2011 season. It seemed very clear last December that the DeRo-for-McCarty trade was one DC would laugh about for years.
Not so fast. "Good things come to those who wait," as they say, and both the Red Bulls and McCarty are being awarded for their patience. McCarty has been a true revelation in the New York midfield while filling in for Rafa Marquez over the past month and a half, so much so that there isn't a single CDM in all of MLS that I'd choose to be in the New York lineup over McCarty as of the typing of this sentence. McCarty has, in my eyes, been the team's MVP since Henry went down with an injury at the end of April, and he has played at such a high level that there is speculation that the Red Bulls may be willing to part with the much-maligned Marquez this summer (but for only the right offer, of course).
It also must be noted that, at 25-years old, McCarty could theoretically just now be entering his prime. One wouldn't be crazy to suggest that the more pricey De Rosario, 34-years old, will never again have a season as he did at DC last year. If forced to choose between the two for the 2012 Red Bulls, I'd pick McCarty in an instant.
Who could have fathomed last winter that we'd be able to make such statements in June 2012?
The Red Bulls host DC United on Sunday night (June 24, 7:00 pm ET kickoff) in a match that could see De Rosario score career MLS goals 99 and 100. Do not at all be surprised if it's McCarty, who has been more attack-minded in New York's past few games, finding the back of the net when the two teams renew their rivalry. With DC in first and New York in third in the MLS East (just three points separate the two sides in the standings), we may still be months away from being able to determine which team won the DeRo-for-McCarty deal.