The anticipated release yesterday of the U.S. Men’s National Team roster for this month’s stateside friendlies against Poland and Colombia came with anticipation and went with disappointment for many fans of Bob Bradley’s side.
The source for displeasure wasn’t necessarily a name on the list, but one that was left off. Missing from the 20-man U.S. roster was legendary striker Brian McBride, who last month announced he would call an end to his illustrious 16-year professional career following the 2010 MLS season.
Though the Arlington Heights native announced his retirement from international competition following the U.S. exit from the 2006 World Cup, many a U.S. supporter clamored for a testimonial cap to honor the American legend one last time in front of his hometown crowd when Bradley’s side takes on Poland at Soldier Field on October 9.
Days after McBride’s announcement last month, Bradley was in Chicago attending the Fire-Toronto FC match at Toyota Park. Fielding questions from supporters, I asked the U.S. boss if he would consider a ceremonial appearance for the former Fulham striker when his side took on Poland.
“I would need more time to think that through,” said Bradley at the time. “We’ve had discussions along the way and Brian has again -- to show you what kind of guy he is, even when we’ve had discussions after he had announced his international retirement – his respect for our team, his respect for the other players is so high that he’s not typically someone who’s interested in those kind of things. He’s always made decisions based upon an all-around respect of what it means to play for his national team and I just think that speaks to his character."
Following yesterday’s roster announcement, many fans thought Bradley had denied McBride the chance at one last international appearance before he called it a day, but the veteran of 95 international appearances dispelled those thoughts earlier today.
“Bob called me this week to have a conversation regarding my feelings about it,” said McBride prior to the Fire’s training session in Dallas. “Like always, it was a good conversation. It didn’t even get to the talk about having a testimonial. He was being very gracious and I don’t know which way he was leaning, but in my view, it was something that I didn’t think should be done.”
Though McBride made a brief international return in 2008 when he joined the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing as one of three “overage players”, the striker has held the same line regarding a return to national team following his retirement.
Just five caps away from the century mark, it always bewildered me why he didn’t stay on with the national team to join the likes of Cobi Jones, Claudio Reyna and Marcelo Balboa, among others in the U.S. “100 Club”.
"The most important thing for me isn't numbers - it never has been,” McBride said in my interview with him in March. “I've had the good fortune to do something I love while building a family and getting to see the world. The opportunity to go to the Olympics came up and it was a great experience, but I haven't had any thoughts about going back to the national team. "
Even knowing his feelings about a brief international swansong, for so many reasons the match against Poland seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up. Surely the desire of many U.S. fans made McBride at least ponder the idea, but as Bradley reiterated last month, Brian’s reasons for not wanting it are about the team and the program.
“If it was something that was done right after I retired from the national team then I would have definitely been interested. It’s a great honor and to be thought of in that way is something that makes me feel proud. It’s been four years since I retired and I didn’t want to come in and water down the effect of being called to the national team. It’s an honor and soccer is a team game – I didn’t want to make it an individual thing.”
McBride also hit home the importance of the match as Bradley begins the process of building a side to compete in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Even though it’s a friendly, it’s an important game for a lot of players. It’s a time for the U.S. and Bob to build his team and give players the experience of playing together in an international atmosphere. I’m honored by the thought process and thanks to the fans for thinking of me in that vein. Ultimately it’s a team sport and it isn’t the right time. My time is gone in that realm and I consider myself a fan like everyone else.”
With all this, it’s also important to remember the Fire still have a chance of playoff qualification and take on the Columbus Crew at Toyota Park the night before. Having only called in two MLS players for the friendlies, FC Dallas’ Heath Pearce and Brek Shea, Bradley said last month that his roster would be sensitive to MLS club’s playoff situations.
As McBride said during his retirement announcement on September 3, he’s still working to help the club make their 12th postseason appearance in 13 seasons.
Ultimately, to deviate any attention away from that goal just isn’t McBridesque and at the end of such an impactful career, Brian’s going out exactly the way he wants.