Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty almost did something in Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field that he very rarely does.
McCarty almost scored. And he almost did it against the European champion.
McCarty has just 19 goals in 13 seasons as a professional, none with the Fire, but his shot off the left post in the 87th minute at Soldier Field nearly tied the game against Spanish superpower Real Madrid. Instead, the ball rebounded to Orlando City's Dom Dwyer, who headed the ball into the net for the equalizer.
After regulation ended 1-1, Real Madrid prevailed in penalty kicks 4-2.
"I'm disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to finish it from the first," McCarty said after the game. " ... Unfortunately, it hit the post. Maybe on another day it bounces off the post and goes in, but I'm just glad that I was able to help contribute to a goal. Dom, he does what he does. He's a goal scorer. That's what he lives for. For me, not so much. I never score. For him that's a good moment and he'll always be able to say he scored against Real Madrid.
"I just hope he gives me some credit," McCarty added with a wry smile, looking at Dwyer sitting two lockers away.
McCarty wasn't the only Fire player who just missed the Real Madrid net. Forward Nemanja Nikolic, the leading scorer in MLS this season, shot just wide left in the 70th minute with the ball bouncing off the advertising board and winding up deceivingly in the net behind the goal.
Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Johan Kappelhof played in a scoreless first half before all-star and Fire coach Veljko Paunovic made wholesale changes at halftime, bringing in McCarty and Nikolic among others.
"It was an overall great experience," Paunovic said with his usual enthusiasm. "I believe that the league showed a good face today against one of the best teams in the world, and I'll repeat that over and over again. But we know the fact that we have to still keep working and improving. It's going to be for us the next five years or hopefully sooner it will be great to face Real Madrid again and see where we stand then."
One wish from the competitor in Paunovic: More time to work with the all-stars to form a more cohesive unit. The team ran through light practices Monday and Tuesday before Wednesday's game.
"If you ask me three days, I won't say three days. It's less than three days efficiently, but that's the other part of all this," said Paunovic, who had to adjust his substitution plans when Atlanta United left back Greg Garza left in the seventh minute with a separated shoulder.
"We had to work with our guys when we had them with us, train with us, and I think we did a good job. Obviously, I learned a lot from this experience."
The Fire returns to league play Saturday at Toyota Park (7:30 p.m., CSN Plus) against the New England Revolution.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said star forward Cristiano Ronaldo missed the All-Star Game to get some rest. He did not mention Ronaldo's tax hearing Monday in Spain.
"He deserves rest," Zidane said through a club translator. "He's had a long season."