An offseason trade sent McCarty from the Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire, the move met with anger by much of the New York fanbase, given McCarty's status as club captain. Traded to the Red Bulls in 2011 from D.C. United, McCarty and his hard-charging mentality quickly won over RBNY fans. All told, he played in 169 games for the club, 163 as a starter.
Saturday marked his first appearance in an opposing jersey since 2010, and though McCarty assisted on the Fire’s equalizer in the 59th minute -- sublimely twisting and turning before springing a pass to Nemanja Nikolic -- it wasn't enough to forestall an eventual 2-1 defeat.
As Nikolic blasted home the goal, shooting past a helpless Luis Robles, McCarty gave a euphoric shout, but he did not join in as his teammates mobbed Nikolic.
“I was happy, very happy when we tied the game up. I thought it was deserved," McCarty said. "The celebration was muted because there was 30 minutes to play and I wanted to win the game. It was just the equalizing goal, it wasn’t like we won the World Cup or anything.”
McCarty served as the Fire captain for this match, a role that rotates and is chosen on a game-by-game basis by head coach Veljko Paunovic. The veteran midfielder performed well with the armband, constantly getting in the thick of things to stop New York attacks and hitting passes forward to teammates to jumpstart attacks.
"For him, it was a big match obviously," said Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. "He did a great job, and he has a lot of supporters here and good relationships with some of the players and the team."
Following the loss, the depth of McCarty's relationships with the Red Bulls and their fans became clear: he made good on a promise of staying on the field for a proper goodbye. McCarty started with embracing his teammates and members of the club, then circled the field to take pictures with fans and sign jerseys.
He spent approximately 30 minutes circling the field to express gratitude to the supporters, who showed their appreciation back with sporadic chants of his name.
"I needed to do it," McCarty said. "The fans that waited for me, it was more than I even could have imagined. The people here, they're just good people, really loyal, and the words that they said to me really mean a lot to me. I'll always remember them, and obviously I just wanted to show to them how much they meant to me and stick around for anyone that was willing to stay.
"I would have stayed out here all night and signed autographs and took pictures if I had to."