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Friday, September 3, 2010
Fire's McBride retiring at end of season

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Always calm, cool and collected both on the pitch and off, Brian McBride could not help but choke up a few times on Friday.

The Chicago Fire target forward, U.S. legend and Arlington Heights native announced that he is retiring following the 2010 Major League Soccer season.

McBride without question has been a pioneer for soccer in this country, and with 17 professional years under his belt, the 38-year-old decided that this year would be the opportune moment to hang up his cleats.

"I feel very blessed to be able to announce my retirement in the city where I began playing this great sport," McBride said at a press conference. "Soccer has given me the chance to travel to so many amazing places and experience so many emotions. I know it has helped to form so much of who I am and how I would like to treat people. The interaction between your teammates at any level is a great experience. But to have these experiences for 17 years at a professional level was way more than I ever dreamt."

McBride thanked former coaches, teams and personnel from his storied career. And while McBride probably could grind through a few more seasons in MLS, his priority above anything else is the opportunity to spend more time with his family.

"You just envy a guy who has his priorities straight," Fire defensive midfielder Logan Pause said. "It's a lesson for all of us."

The Buffalo Grove High School grad and St. Louis University All-American paved the way for many soccer players in this country. McBride appeared in three World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006) and played for the English Premier League's Fulham from 2004-2008.

"There were people before me that were able to go over to Europe and do well and put their foot in the door," McBride said. "And going over there early on, even though people would say it was hard when I went, it was harder when they went. Those guys, just like with U.S. Soccer, there's been plenty of people that have been a part of the U.S. Men's National Team that really had to forge their way through, put some stones in the ground that allowed players like myself.

"And I think that's sort of the job you do," he said. "The players that are coming in now are going to be doing the same sort of thing for players after them. It's something you don't think about when you're playing."

McBride was the face of MLS at the very beginning as the first overall selection by the Columbus Crew in the inaugural MLS Draft on Feb. 6, 1996. McBride was playing for German side Wolfsburg at the time.

He tallied 62 goals in eight seasons with the Crew before heading to Fulham, where he netted 40 goals in 153 matches.

"Brian is, up to this point right now, one of the best strikers in U.S. Soccer history, for sure," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "I know he talked about players before that kind of paved the way, but I think he truly was one of the guys that had a great career in Europe. Forget about the respect he has here. The respect he has from fellow teammates, fellow coaches in the EPL, speaks volumes."

McBride returned to MLS in 2008 with the Fire, scoring five goals in 11 matches. In 2009, McBride led Chicago with seven goals in 22 games, though he suffered a shoulder injury and also a scoring slump for the better part of the season. McBride at one point was leading MLS with six goals in 2009.

For the better part of about five years, McBride signed one-year contracts as the thought of retirement did come up from time to time.

"Something I never wanted to have happen is to go into a preseason with not the same passion and desire that I've always gone into, and the preparation and the time that means," McBride said. "We talked about it more last year when I had my shoulder surgery, and it sort of came to the forefront earlier this season."

This season, McBride has four goals and two assists in 17 matches.

McBride was a fixture on the U.S. National Team, recording a cap in 12 different years and tallying 30 goals and 10 assists before announcing his international retirement in 2006. He was the first American to score in two World Cups, tallying a goal in 1998 and two goals in 2002.

McBride reiterated Friday that the job is not over just yet. He and the Fire (6-7-6) are preparing for a key match against the Los Angeles Galaxy (13-5-4) on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Obviously a run into the postseason and an MLS Cup would make for poetic drama as McBride's send-off. But McBride always has made it clear that the game is not the sole definition of his persona.

A fitting image of McBride would be netting a goal and kissing his wedding band, traveling back home after the final game and seeing his daughters run to greet him at the door as he turns the page to the next chapter in his life.