Left winger Eddie Lewis grew close to McBride both through his time with the national team and time their families spent with each other while both were plying their trade in England. The two even spoke about each other’s experiences when opportunities at club’s past became available.
“We had quite a few conversations when I was looking to go to Preston [where McBride was on loan] and then when he was talking about going to Fulham [where Lewis played for two seasons] – we helped each other out,” said Lewis. “Oddly enough because there were so few Americans in England at the time, we all kept a pretty tight network. It’s a good group. Dina and a lot of the wives were very close as well. In many ways between the Reyna’s the Howards, the McBride’s – it was a very close family. In a lot of ways we’ll probably have a bond that will last for a long time.”
The veteran Fire striker also served as a role model to a young Edson Buddle, partnering with the green striker in Columbus from 2001-03. Always a talent, Buddle’s play and goal scoring rate rose so dramatically early this MLS season that Bob Bradley named him to the 2010 World Cup roster with only one cap to his name.
“Brian’s the kind of player I modeled myself after,” said Buddle. “Every day he came in with a good attitude, a smile on his face and enthusiasm to play the game. He was just technically sharp every day – that’s something I wanted to be as a professional.”
An avid Twitter user, Buddle found out about McBride’s retirement via the social media tool.
“I was surprised when I read it on Twitter. I always tell him he doesn’t age at all but he’s told me it was from all the plastic surgery he’s had on his face – he still looks good to me. It was a pleasure playing with him in Columbus, he’s had a great career.”
Now the most recognizable face in American soccer, Landon Donovan was another player McBride helped through his formative years with the U.S. national team. The two suited up in the attack together 44 times from 2000-06 and played key roles in the American success during the 2002 World Cup, scoring the two goals that pushed the U.S. past Mexico and into the tournament quarterfinals.
“The biggest thing for me about Brian was watching the little things he did,” said Donovan. “Everybody sees the goals he scores, the way he holds the ball up, how strong he was. For me it was his example: every day eating right, hydrating properly, just being a good professional. He paid a lot of attention to the younger guys, helping us move along as players, showing us what it means to do this every day and making sure we understood none of this is a given. I’m glad I had the opportunity to be around him and learn from his example.”
Even with the announcement, McBride will play with the Fire through the end of the season and in his words, hoping to lead the club to the playoff and MLS Cup – one thing that has eluded the striker during his illustrious career. The road to making the playoffs starts Saturday against LA and while the Galaxy are still sitting atop the league, they come into the match on a two-game losing streak, just like the Fire.
As head coach Bruce Arena pondered Saturday’s tilt and what could possibly be the last time he faces McBride, the manager couldn’t help but let out his compassionate, competitive spirit.
“I hope he gets a goal and we win.”
Tune into Comcast SportsNet and TeleFutura today at 3pm CT to see the outcome.
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.