There are few players in Major League Soccer that have experienced decorated careers at the magnitude at which Fire striker Brian McBride has. A veteran of three World Cups and 95 international caps, the Arlington Heights native has blazed soccer trails both in the United States and Europe, establishing a better reputation for the American player abroad through his athleticism, work ethic and nose for goal.
A college standout at Saint Louis University, McBride spent a year with USISL side, Milwaukee Rampage in 1994 before signing with VfL Wolfsburg in the German Second Division that fall. Though a good experience, McBride played scarcely that season and eventually returned Stateside to take part in Major League Soccer's inaugural season with the Columbus Crew. It was in Columbus where the striker's career began to take off, eventually becoming the club's all-time leading scorer and going from spot U.S. national team player to first choice starter.
As another World Cup approaches, there are few Americans more qualified to speak of success at the world's biggest sporting spectacle. The only American to score in two separate tournaments, he spoke about the prospects of the U.S. team when they open their sixth consecutive World Cup on June 12 vs. England in Rustenberg, South Africa.
"This is an exciting time for U.S. Soccer," said the retired American international. "The players have been well prepared through the cycle and have had some wonderful results like last year's Confederation's Cup. The injury bug hit the team a bit over the last few months, but guys seem to be gaining health - they'll be anxious and given their first opponent they should be. As a player, you build up in your mind games like the one against England and I'm excited for the guys. "
Though McBride retired from senior international play following the United States' exit from the 2006 World Cup, he remains familiar with the squad - even it's younger players such as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, whom he suited up with as he briefly came out of international retirement for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Just five appearances away from reaching the senior century mark, McBride didn't have to think twice about either retirement or his brief return for the Olympics following that decision.
"The most important thing for me isn't numbers - it never has been. 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. Bob's put together a strong team and I'm excited to see them represent us in South Africa."
While two of his three World Cups ended in disappointment, the target man's best international memories come from his time at the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan. Expected by many to go three-and-out, the team rose above expectation early in the tournament, defeating group favorites Portugal 3-2, with McBride scoring the winning goal. After needing help from their Korean hosts to advance from the group stage, McBride scored another winner - this time against Mexico in the United States' 2-0 "Round of 16" victory - propelling the Americans to their first ever quarterfinal appearance, where they fell 1-0 in controversy to Germany.
"There were good performances in that tournament and a number of things went our way as well. Overall it was one of my proudest moments as a player."
Stay tuned to chicago-fire.com tomorrow to read part two of this story; where McBride talks about his time in Europe, specifically the great escapes of 2007 and 2008 with Fulham FC.