World Soccer Talk got the opportunity to interview legendary U.S. National Team and Fulham player Brian McBride on his current work with AllState and the changes he has seen within the United States and the growth of the sport.
Here’s the interview:
Caitlin O’Connell: Thank you for talking with us today. What advice do you give the young players you interact with, and what advice would you give young soccer players in America?
Brian McBride – It’s important that they have fun. You need to make sure you’re enjoying yourself while you’re playing and taking part but it’s a lot of hard work and to get out there with a soccer ball as much as possible. That’ll help with their improvement.
O’Connell – It’s been an incredible year for U.S. Soccer, what is one moment from this last year that stands out to you?
McBride – The thing that stands out has to be the Women’s World Cup and winning that, but on the men’s side it would be the second half [of the USMNT friendly] in Germany that was pretty special. The first half was not as clear-cut and it was about what you expected with Germany causing problems but the second half we came out and pressed them all over the place. We were able to keep the ball and have sustained pressure all over the field to get that result.
O’Connell – As you said, the women’s team just had an incredible World Cup. How long do you think it will take for the men’s team to make a run at a World Cup title?
McBride – I think it will be a little while. You hope for a “Golden Generation,” a generation that is sort of two or three just world-class stars, and the rest being capable and smart players. I think then you have the opportunity to go far in a World Cup. Going deep in a World Cup is going to be extremely difficult, not something that I would say is NEVER going to happen but certainly it’s a ways off. I think once we’re contending in the quarter-finals and semi-finals year after year then you’ll break through.
O’Connell – What changes have you seen personally in the growth of soccer in the United States?
McBride – The biggest change for me is the support. Nowadays almost every MLS team has a supporter’s group with fanatical fans. All you have to do is look at the American Outlaws and what they do not only go to home games but away games to support our national teams, it’s pretty special and awesome to see.
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O’Connell – There’s been some pretty big recent signings in MLS. Who are you most excited to see play in the United States?
McBride – I’m looking forward to see what kind of impact both [Frank] Lampard and [Steven] Gerarrd can have. These are two players who are leaders on the field and incredibly talented soccer players. I know the set-up and the formula that Bruce [Arena] has in L.A. is a great one and it will only help having Steven Gerrard with them. For a new young club like NYCFC with an ownership that has a lot of strength, and bringing [Andrea] Pirlo into that group, with a really bright young coach in Jason Kreis so it should be fun to see.
O’Connell – Having transitioned from a career in Europe to MLS yourself, what would you say is the biggest transition for a player to go through?
McBride – It’s going to be the pace of play. I’m sure that they wil adapt and the nice thing for those two players [Lampard and Gerrard] is they’re going to be able to help control the pace of play, I imagine it’s going to speed up quite a bit. When you look at pace of play, I mean making runs and expecting a ball to come, just knowing to adapt your game just as far as your teammates.
O’Connell – How would you rate the U.S.’s performance in the Gold Cup so far?
McBride – I think it’s been sort of stop-start, there’s been points in games where you see good glimpses. Gyasi Zardes has been excellent throughout, Michael [Bradley] and Clint [Dempsey] of course have been the standouts of our team as you would expect and Brad Guzan has played very well.
O’Connell – What changes would you like to see the U.S. Men’s National Team make to help defend the Gold Cup title?
McBride – It comes back to execution, making sure that we take advantage of our opportunities. The nice thing is that coming into the Cuba game is it’s probably going to be a bit easier than the first three games they played in the group stage. Still you have to make sure you maintain focus, because then it becomes making sure you solidify in the back. Trying to not allow as many gaps between defenders and also not allowing as many opportunities.
O’Connell – Can you tell us about the work you’re doing with AllState?
McBride – So basically AllState is a sponsor of the Gold Cup, “Protectors of the Cup,” and what they do is travel around with the trophy to different venues. At the same time I join most of them, quite a few of them, and we do a special event with clinics and set-up a surprise to a local youth club. [We] put on a clinic, have some games – have some fun – at the end do some question and answers [then] AllState surprises them with new uniforms and equipment.
O’Connell – That’s fantastic.
McBride – It is. It’s a unique grassroots touch on each community.