Brian McBride has touched a lot of people over the years through his play on the field and his character off of it. As the legendary American striker announced his retirement Friday at Toyota Park, it seemed fitting to have the Los Angeles Galaxy in town, with their roster full of players and coaches that have had the opportunity to play next to or manage the target striker throughout his decorated 16-year professional career.
The Galaxy bill the likes of some of U.S. Soccer’s past and present stalwarts – names like Donovan, Arena, Jones, Lewis, and Buddle – all who were gracious in giving their memories and thoughts on the legacy McBride will leave when he hangs up his boots at the end of the year.
“He’s a person that we all admire on the field and off,” said former U.S. National Team and current Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “He’s had a fabulous career as a player and he’s been great away from the field in every team he’s been involved with. Brian’s the true definition of a team player although obviously his individual play speaks for itself. He was truly a great leader and a guy that always put his team first.”
McBride was perhaps the most impactful player to play under Arena during his eight-year stint in charge of the national team. Their careers sort of rose together as the former D.C. United boss took the job following the United States’ embarrassing exit from the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
Seventy-two of McBride’s 95 national team caps and 24 of his 30 goals came during Arena’s tenure. He was the leading scorer at the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup, helping the Americans win the tournament for the first time since 1991 and showing a sign of things to come as he helped the U.S. to the quarterfinals of that year’s World Cup in South Korea, scoring the winning goals in victories over Portugal and Mexico.
Having written the book as the quintessential American target forward, McBride created a role that no American forward since has truly been able to fill.
“He was unique in that he was a box player,” continued Arena. “He was a guy on the U.S. team that every team will always have to defend. He’s an absolute warrior – someone you’d always want leading the line for your team. My fondest memories of him are the great goal he scored against Portugal in 2002 and also the effort he put in against Italy in 2006 where he was injured in the first half, took stitches at half time and just had a courageous performance in helping us attain a point against the eventual World Champions. Brian did whatever was necessary for his team to succeed and that’s how I’ll always remember him.”
Having played 164 times for the U.S. Men’s National Team, current LA Galaxy assistant coach Cobi Jones appeared 54 times with McBride at the international level. Almost 10 years ago to the day, September 3, 2000, the two linked up for the winning goal in the American’s crucial 1-0 win over Guatemala in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, while the U.S. was playing a man down. Jones crossed from the right-side of the 18 to an open McBride, who sacrificed his left leg as goalkeeper Edgar Estrada sprawled on top of him. That result helped propel the U.S. into the final round of World Cup qualifying after struggling during the team’s first two matches.
It was plays such as that which separated McBride from other strikers according to Jones.
“Brian’s ability as a target player in the air and on the field were remarkable,” said the all-time U.S. appearance leader. “He was able to hold up the ball regardless of who was marking him and was able to get to crosses regardless of who was in the back. That’s something that was lacking in the past in U.S. Soccer. He was also a true pioneer for Americans going overseas, first to Germany then really making a name for himself in England during his loans with Preston and Everton before signing with Fulham. He’s a quality athlete and a good person overall – someone with a lot of character. I think that’s something a lot of people will say about him.”
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