Nashville SC 2020 Report Card: Dax McCarty

We’re continuing our Nashville SC report cards with a look at midfielder Dax McCarty.

Position: Defensive midfielder
Matches played: 24
Minutes played: 2,152
Goals: 2
Assists: 4
Goals added: 0.45 (19th among MLS midfielders)
xPass Score: 20.84 (20th among MLS midfielders)
xG+xA: 3.14 (24th among MLS midfielders)
Average Speedway Soccer rating: 7.3
Average WhoScored rating: 6.9

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Graphic courtesy American Soccer Analysis

What went right in 2020?

McCarty was signed to be the leader of this Nashville expansion side, both on and off the field. He didn’t disappoint. The club captain from day one, McCarty was always the first player to speak to the media, fielding questions after poor performances or moments bigger than the game itself.

On the field, McCarty was not just a leader, often acting as a second coach. He was incredibly effective. Still one of the best two-way midfielders in this league, his passing opened up space for Nashville in the final third, with his ability to break lines and find feet a crucial piece of Nashville’s game plan.

In addition to his passing, McCarty’s workrate was unmatched. He reads the game exceptionally well, and made breaking up play look much simpler than it really is with smart positioning. He was a foundational piece of Gary Smith’s tactic of winning the ball in midfield and immediately going to goal. Like this:

Or this:

McCarty pitched in with six goal contributions, scoring twice and assisting four more. In a side that struggled to score consistently, those contributions were vital, and gave Nashville an additional dimension.

What went wrong in 2020?

On the field, not much went wrong for McCarty. Personally, it was another season of coming close to an MLS Cup but coming up empty. For a player who’s nearing the end of his playing career, bowing out in extra time of the conference semi-finals was a gut punch. It will be little consolation, but McCarty’s performances in 2020 were stellar.

What needs to improve in 2021?

For McCarty, a successful 2021 would look nearly identical to 2020, perhaps with a trophy at the end of it. He’ll turn 34 midway through the year, and although he shows no sign of slowing down, age catches up with everyone.

With another crowded schedule on the horizon, McCarty will be asked to play plenty of minutes. He should be able to handle it, but keeping up the consistent level he’s expected to deliver will be crucial.

Most memorable moment

Contributing a goal and three assists in Nashville’s 4-2 win over Atlanta was a great moment, but his goal to ice the first playoff win in Nashville history was a fantastic piece of work.

2020 Grade: A

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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