It might be a largely meaningless competition, but that doesn't necessarily mean the New York Red Bulls' winning of the 2011 Emirates Cup is entirely without significance. The Red Bulls became not only the first MLS team to compete in the five-year-old tournament, but they also became the first team from outside Europe to win. They clinched the trophy when they tied Arsenal 1-1 in Sunday's final a day after beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0.
Fittingly, former Arsenal star Thierry Henry played a role in Sunday's tying goal. Trailing 1-0 in the 84th minute, Henry sent in a pass from just outside the penalty area to an on-rushing Roy Miller, who then crossed it into the six-yard box. Backup Arsenal substitute Kyle Bartley attempted to clear the ball, but ended up scoring an own goal.
The Red Bulls definitely seemed to take the tournament seriously, even if it was against a bunch of teams that were still getting prepared for their regular seasons. In stark contrast to their embarrassing display in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals when they sent a team of reserves and their top two coaches didn't bother to travel, the Red Bulls featured a lineup that was essentially their first-team and many of their starters played a full 90 minutes. Many of those players had played significant minutes a day earlier in the win over PSG.
Arsenal, meanwhile, made good use of the liberal substitution rules, as 17 players made an appearance for the Gunners. With many of their starters still in the game, Arsenal took an early lead when Robin Van Persie headed in a goal off a free kick from Tomas Rosicky.