Atlanta United’s Dax McCarty doesn’t feel old, though he has 1 good reason

Atlanta United midfielder Dax McCarty heads the ball during training camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Atlanta United midfielder Dax McCarty heads the ball during training camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

Dax McCarty can’t remember if before joining Atlanta United he ever had a teammate who is the son of a former teammate.

Tyler Wolff, son of Josh Wolff, a former teammate of McCarty’s at D.C. United, has closed that circle.

Rather than letting it remind McCarty that he’s about to begin his 18th season in MLS, and first with the Five Stripes, it’s inspired him.

“It’s really, it’s really humbling because I feel really lucky and blessed that I’ve been able to do this as long as I have,” he said. “So I come out every day with a smile on my face, and I just want to enjoy it. I want to try to get better. And I still feel like I have a lot to prove to myself and to maybe people who think that old guys can’t hack it anymore. You want to prove them wrong. And so that’s what I’m excited to do this year. And whether I play a ton or a little bit. I’m just here to try to help the team win games.”

McCarty signed as a free agent. Atlanta United is his sixth team, the top of a list that is followed by Nashville, Chicago, the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United, where he met young Tyler, and Dallas. McCarty has gone from flying coach to matches to flying charters. He’s seen the implementation of the Designated Players and Apple Pass. He’s advanced from newspapers to blogs to podcasts, of which he has his own, “Major League Journeyman.” His two co-hosts, one familiar to Atlanta United from his work with TV, are Dan Gargan and Alan Gordon.

“You guys are probably going to run out of battery in your camera, but I really do enjoy talking about the game,” McCarty said. “I enjoy talking about American soccer. I enjoy talking about how far the game has come in this country.”

McCarty had plenty to talk about Tuesday. The team is about about 2½ weeks into training camp and has less than a month until it opens its MLS season at Columbus on Feb. 24. McCarty is enjoying his time at The Battery Atlanta, his temporary home while he awaits the arrival of his family, and hasn’t yet had experienced the pain of Atlanta traffic.

McCarty said it’s been interesting relearning how to play in manager Gonzalo Pineda’s preferred style: possession-based aggressive tactics. McCarty said that’s how he prefers to play and how he sees the game. It’s different that the more defensive approach preferred at Nashville.

A unique experience for McCarty is the quality of the academy players that are training with the first team. McCarty said Nashville’s academy was just getting up and running when he was there. Chicago’s wasn’t very deep.

“I talked about it a little bit with some of the guys in the locker room, but some of the Academy kids and some of the players that have played with the 2s that trained have trained with us for the first couple weeks are just incredibly impressive,” he said. “And you would almost expect 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds to maybe bring the level of training down a little bit and be a little bit out of place. I don’t see that at all here in preseason. And I’m just extremely impressed with the talent coming through the pipeline.”

Among the reasons Atlanta United signed McCarty was to provide leadership. He said he has told the younger players to enjoy the experience, be approachable, be appreciative and to be a sponge.

“Once you earn respect of the seasoned professionals, they’re going to take you under their wing, and they’re gonna make sure that they do everything they can to help you succeed,” he said.

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 at Columbus, 2 p.m.

March 9 vs. New England, 7:30 p.m.

March 17 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

March 23 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

March 31 vs. Chicago, 3:30 p.m., FOX

April 6 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

April 14 vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., FOX

April 20 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.