American soccer will lose one if its most venerated heroes at the end of the MLS season when 38-year-old Brian McBride finally call it quits after a 16-year career.
McBride is most known in the United States as a star for the national team. A decade of solid performances punctuated by moments of absolute brilliance. His eventually game-winning goal against Portugal in the 2002 World Cup is one of the most famous in U.S. history, rivaled only by Donovan’s 2010 goal against Algeria and Gaetjen’s 1950 winner against England. But it was his tenure in the EPL that endeared him to the English public and paved the way for other Americans to make the jump to the world’s most competitive league.
Following a couple of sucessful loans at Preston North End and Everton, McBride moved from the MLS to Fulham for a paltry £1.5 million in 2004. He arrived as an aging (already 31) American striker from a league few respected with zero expectations. Four years later, he left with 40 goals and a Craven Cottage bar named after him. Fans chanted his name when he saved Fulham from relegation and commentators marveled at his scoring ability.
His work ethic and humility were a welcome reprieve from the egotistical narcasissm exibited by most professional athletes. He never complained, never showboated and always put the team above himself. It was those qualities that convinced Roy Hodgson to award McBride the captain’s armband in 2007, a first for an American.
“As my captain last season Brian was truly respected in the dressing room and led by example on the pitch,” said Hodgson after McBride left Craven Cottage in 2008 to return to his native Chicago. “His attitude is second to none, Brian is a true pro in every sense of the word.”
McBride announced his retirement with a short press conference outside the Fire’s stadium in Chicago. The conference was short, McBride tearfully thanked his wife and talked about his love for the game, which was always evident. He, along with Claudio Renya and Brad Friedel, created a great deal of respect abroad for the progression of the sport in this country. That respect is now being taken advantage of and eliminated by a few choice American businessmen, but I digress. He was a star, but never acted like it. Instead, McBride was a true professional, an ideal ambassador for the States, and one of the nicest guys ever to put on a pair of boots. He made his country proud and will be sorely, sorely missed.