Fire Send Off McBride, Brown in Style
Jaime Moreno was not the only big-name retiree this weekend; the Chicago Fire said goodbye to American soccer legend Brian McBride and longtime defender C.J. Brown. The club’s overall record was disappointing to fans, but by getting ten points in the last six matches the club has some optimism going into the offseason.
Swedish international Freddie Ljungberg was the star of the show, finishing with a goal and an assist. It was his assist that gained the attention rather than his match-winning goal. In the fortieth minute he provided a cross in the goal area that for the eightieth time Brian McBride slide into the back of the net, this time with his right foot. McBride remained on the field long enough to watch Ljungberg slot the game’s second goal inside the right post to take a 2-0 lead, which was expanded to 4 Fire goals later in the match by Carr (67) and Husidic (90+). Maldonado notched a goal for Chivas, but their season ended as it did so often this season – on the wrong side of the ledger.
McBride, quite possibly the greatest U.S. national player in the past few decades, was substituted off in the 51st minute to applause from the home fans. Rather than rehash his illustrious career in MLS, the national team, and England, I want to just point out some of the amazing highlights (you can see the summary here). He was the first player selected in the MLS Inaugural Draft and went on to be named one of the MLS All-Time Best XI. Since his retirement from international soccer, the US has had problems finding a consistent threat at striker, helping build his international legacy. He is a legend for his first club the Columbus Crew and his hometown team the Chicago Fire, and MLS will lose another major star next year.
McBride was not the only player playing in his last game, however. C.J. Brown, one of the “Fire Originals” selected in the 1998 Supplemental Draft, also played his last match. The defender had a solid international and domestic career, and witnessed all of the Fire’s great moments on the pitch, including one MLS Cup and four U.S. Open Cups. In a testament to his work in the community, Brown also won three Humanitarian of the Year Awards.
The offseason will be a critical one for both clubs. Chicago, who is used to contending for the playoffs, could have only one starter back after a number of retirements, contracts expiring, and unprotected players in the expansion draft. On the other side of the pitch, Chivas fell from four straight playoff appearances to utter miserableness and now face the loss of Jonathan Bornstein to Mexico.
Playoff schedules, analysis, and awards coming later today! Share your Brian McBride memories below in the comments section.