Nine days before his 36th birthday, the veteran midfielder became just the third outfield player in league history to reach that milestone, joining MLS legends Kyle Beckerman and Chad Marshall in the elusive 400-start club.
"Honestly, I don't really give much thought to individual milestones or accolades. I've never really been about that in my whole career," McCarty told local media after the match. "One thing I will say about achieving something like that is I have a lot of pride in the fact that I've been able to do it as long as I have... The thing that always sticks out to me is I always wanted to try and earn the trust and respect of my teammates and coaches before all else. That was the thing that meant more to me than anything."
McCarty has played for five MLS clubs across his 18-year career, winning the 2013 Supporters' Shield with the New York Red Bulls. He joined Nashville ahead of their expansion season in 2020, serving as the club captain for the first three seasons. Now, with US international center back Walker Zimmerman taking the armband, McCarty is embracing a different role.
"I've never needed the captain's armband to try to just be myself and try to be a good teammate and try to be a good leader," he said, noting the pride he felt to serve as a captain for D.C. United, Red Bulls, Chicago Fire FC and Nashville. "Where I'm at in my career, I'm not playing 90 minutes every single game, even though I stupidly think I can still. We all know that's not the case. I think Walker is the perfect guy to take it away from me."
McCarty will turn 36 on April 30. He admitted he's considered retirement in recent seasons, but isn't ready to call it quits yet.
"It's crossed my mind," said McCarty, whose career stands at over 35,000 regular-season minutes after being selected sixth overall in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas. "I've thought about a lot of different options. I love the game. I want to stay involved in the game no matter what I do, if I keep playing for another year or two years, or if I retire at the end of the year, I still want to be involved in this game. It's crossed my mind for sure."
With Nashville's league-best defense, reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar leading the line, and a brand new stadium and training facility, McCarty says he's motivated and supported by his team and family to keep playing. Winning a trophy, though, is his biggest source of motivation.
"The fact that we haven't been able to win a trophy yet, we haven't been able to get over the line, we've made the playoffs every year, we've made a semifinal of the US Open Cup. I mean, we were one minute away from being able to host a final," he reminisced. "Just tasting that is bittersweet, because you know this team is capable of winning a trophy."
"I desperately, desperately want to do this for this city and this club before I hang up the boots," McCarty reflected. "That's still a big motivator for me."