KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Following the surprise weekend win at the Emirates Cup, the New York Red Bulls strolled out of the stadium, into the car park and onto the waiting team bus unmolested, and with little fanfare. If that spoke of the British press corps' surprise at Arsenal's flatness, a lack of enthusiasm for MLS and a sheer focus on Thierry Henry, it also reflected NY's unassuming approach and the businesslike attitude which saw it trump more celebrated opponents.
United States' men's national team midfielder Dax McCarty is already assimilated into this psyche, despite having only arrived from DC United (in a trade for Dwayne De Rosario) just over a month ago. Speaking exclusively to FOXSoccer.com, the 24-year-old exuded a quiet satisfaction that his side had planted a flag in Europe for the American game, albeit against two sides in Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain still striving for top gear.
"We wanted to come over here and do well, not just get pushed around," said McCarty, one of nine Red Bulls to play in both weekend matches. "More of the first-team guys wanted to push it and play both games, and you could definitely tell in the second game against a fantastic team like Arsenal that it was difficult to get a rhythm, and go forward as much as we would have liked.
"It becomes academic - they have so much of the ball that you know you just have to defend for your life for most of the game.
"It's a tremendous result for us to nick a goal at the end and win the trophy. It may not have been the prettiest display of football by us, but we got the job done."
On the contrary, Hans Backe's side impressed with its finesse as much as its industry 24 hours earlier, in the win over PSG. NY caught Antoine Kombouare's men on the hop, despite the newly-flush Europeans including expensive recent signings such as France internationals Jeremy Menez and Blaise Matuidi.
"We played very well," McCarty purred. "We outplayed them in the first half and deservedly got our goal, and in the second half, as our legs got heavier they managed to play better, but we still hit them on the break. I thought in the first game we really showed what we try to be as a team."
The opportunity to show a full house in England that the Red Bulls are more than a retirement home for Henry elevated the Red Bulls' excursion to London above a mere mid-season tourist trip, said McCarty.
"It certainly shows well for our league. We know that these teams (PSG and Arsenal) are only in pre-season, but that doesn't mean that they weren't trying to win the tournament. Arsenal are close to being ready for the season and I think their form showed that - they were pretty crisp passing the ball, very sharp with their movement. Obviously MLS has come a long way, and hopefully we'll open some people's eyes with the tournament win, and people will start respecting it a little bit more."
After the glamor of the international, McCarty and the rest of the roster need no reminding that domestic matters require attention. Recent MLS form, after a run that has seen NY win just once in seven games since mid-June, is a concern.
"We just want to make sure that we make the play-offs," McCarty underlined. "We're sitting in a kind of shaky spot right now. It's important that we take the positives for this tournament into the game against Real Salt Lake (on Sunday). We'll stay humble because it's crunch time. We need victories, because we know we've been drawing too many games, and that's not good enough."
McCarty himself hopes for a bit of stability, having just being traded for the second time inside a year.
"It's a process," he shrugged, "and we've had some changes recently, including myself just being traded to the team, so it's about integrating, and also getting our injured players back. When all our players are healthy, we're a very dangerous team at MLS, and we're a good team comparatively around the world, as we proved this weekend."
Henry has been a constant among all that change, and he appears to revel in his senior role in the side.
"He's a tremendous leader," enthused McCarty. "He comes with great pedigree, his experiences around the world are second-to-none. He's still a great player, he's a great guy and he really leads us well - he uses his experience to lead us in pressure situations. He's had a very good year for us, so we hope he can carry on with that, and we'll be following him wherever he's heading."
McCarty will seek to impress another legend of the game in months to come, following Friday's news that US Soccer has appointed Juergen Klinsmann to replace Bob Bradley as head coach. The midfielder admitted a tinge of sorrow for the man who gave him his USMNT debut.
"Bob had a great five years and he gave me my first cap with the national team," he said, so I'm very appreciative of him for that. I thought he did a great job during the time he was there, but obviously US Soccer felt it was time for a change."
Nevertheless, McCarty is optimistic that the California-based former Germany coach Klinsmann can help the US to step up to the next level, after the promise of World Cup performances in the last decade.
"Juergen comes with a pedigree that's very impressive," he said, "both as a player and a coach. I'm sure he'll shake things up."
Having been made captain by Bradley for January's friendly against Chile, McCarty hopes he can be central to the new generation.
"Obviously he probably knows the veterans a little bit better," he reflected, "but for the younger players like myself, it's about making a good first impression. Hopefully I'll get my chance, but it's all about us getting on the same page as him as quickly as possible, and hopefully he can lead us to new heights that US Soccer hasn't yet experienced."