Dax McCarty was once again one of Nashville SC’s most important players in 2023. We’re continuing our report card series with a look at his season.
2023 Grade: B+
2023 by the numbers
Matches played: 34 (11th on Nashville SC)
Minutes played: 2,576 (9th on Nashville SC)
Goals: 1 (T-9th on Nashville SC)
Assists: 7 (T-2nd on Nashville SC)
Goal contributions per 96 minutes: 0.30 (5th on Nashville SC)
2023 in review
I’ve said before that I think Dax McCarty was the most important player to Nashville this season not named Hany Mukhtar, and after looking back at his season, I think that holds true. No other midfielder on Nashville’s roster comes close to his ability to play progressive passes quickly and efficiently, and his absence generally corresponded with a downturn in midfield.
With that being said, 2023 was a season of ups and downs for McCarty. He struggled at times to start the year, including a disastrous 60 minute shift against Cincinnati that he later admitted had him considering retirement.
That all changed with Nashville’s run to the Leagues Cup final. McCarty was at the heart of everything Nashville did, playing certainly the best soccer of his Nashville career and one of the best stretches of his 18-year professional career. He was dominant once Nashville made it to the knockout rounds, registering three assists in a 5-0 win over Minnesota United and playing the pass of the season to set up Sam Surridge’s equalizer against Club América.
McCarty was arguably the best player on the field in Nashville’s penalty shootout defeat to Inter Miami in the final, and impressed again in their 0-0 draw just 11 days later. However, he faded a bit down the stretch (along with the rest of the team), and struggled in Nashville’s playoff defeat to Orlando City, giving away the ball inside his own box to concede what proved to be the winner.
Nashville and McCarty enter the offseason without a clear picture what’s next. McCarty has been on one-year contracts for the last couple seasons, and is a free agent heading into the winter.
Nashville’s midfield clearly needs some change. They’re one of the oldest units in MLS, and other than McCarty, they sorely lack any consistent playmakers. While they need to bring in fresh bodies, there should still be a role for McCarty, who will turn 37 next April. If he does come back, though, Nashville need to ensure that he won’t have to play in every match out of necessity, and add starting quality pieces around him to allow him to be at his best in the most important moments.
McCarty has a lot to weigh this offseason; whether he continues playing in Nashville (or elsewhere), or if now is the time to hang up his boots and enter the world of coaching or media. There’s a lot for both parties to figure out, and I don’t expect we’ll know the answer for a little while.
Moment of the season
McCarty’s pass to set up Sam Surridge’s equalizer against Club América was not only a thing of beauty; it was maybe the most important pass in Nashville SC’s fledgling history.