MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips had just landed in Los Angeles on Monday when he got a message from Dax McCarty telling him to call him as soon as possible. He knew it wasn't good news.
"You know those kind of messages," Wright-Phillips told ESPNFC on Tuesday, a day after learning that McCarty, the Red Bulls heart-and-soul captain for the last two seasons, had been traded to the Chicago Fire.
"He'll be missed," Wright-Phillips said. "Dax is a player you can't replace, and I'm not talking about football-wise, just everything he's done for that team in the changing room, on and off the field. He can't be replaced, so it's a tough one."
When Wright-Phillips, who won the Golden Boot for a second time in 2016 after becoming the first player in MLS history to reach that 20-goal threshold twice, called back, he learned that it was tough on McCarty, too.
"I don't want to go into too much, but he's obviously hurt," Wright Phillips said. "He loves this place. There were times last season where we were losing our way a bit, and Dax is the guy who gets you on track, gets you back to where you're supposed to be headed."
McCarty and Wright-Phillips weren't the only players surprised by the deal.
"I was shocked," said Houston Dynamo midfielder Andrew Wenger, who faced McCarty often during his first four seasons in the league, when he played for Eastern Conference clubs the Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union. "Dax has been great over the last couple of years...it's kind of jarring."
Even Western Conference foes weighed in on the blockbuster.
"It's always surprising when the captain of a team gets traded," said San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe. "I'm sure they had a good reason to do it -- I bet they're probably planning some big moves."
The Red Bulls, who won the Supporters Shield in 2013 and again in 2015 with McCarty on the field, received $400,000 in allocation funds in exchange for the 29-year-old. Wright-Phillips said he hoped the team would bolster its back line or add some depth up front.
"It's always good to get help," he said. "If we can bring in some other attackers, or another attacker, it wouldn't hurt."
In the meantime, it will be up to youngsters Sean Davis and Tyler Adams, who won't turn 18 until next month, to try and fill the void in the middle of the field.
"He's ready to play," Wright-Phillips said of Davis. "He could've played last season, he could've fought his way into the team. This season he's going to have to step up, and he's got the ability to."
The news comes just a few days after rumblings that New York's coach Jesse Marsch could be headed to Austrian sister club Red Bull Salzburg. However, Marsch insisted that he's staying put. Combined with the loss of McCarty, though, it made for a tough few days for his players.
"It was a little worrying," Wright-Phillips said. "I didn't know what was happening."