Daily Herald
Unassuming McBride's soccer resume hard to match
By Orrin Schwarz | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 9/8/2010 11:16 AM | Updated: 9/8/2010 11:17 AM

The story goes something like this:

A man is sitting in a folding chair along the sidelines of his child's suburban youth soccer game, watching quietly and intently. Another parent approaches and begins a polite conversation. Eventually the conversation turns back to the game, and it went something like this:

"Do you know much about soccer?" the second parent asks the first.

"A little bit," Brian McBride says with a smile.

Dina McBride, Brian's wife, knows that moment well.

"I think that story comes from the first year that we signed up our daughter for kindergarten soccer," said Dina. "I said something that if he ever wanted Brian to help out when he had free time, he would. (The coach) said to me, Oh, did he ever play soccer? I just kind of put it off. I didn't want the coach to feel like it wasn't his job. So I said, yeah, he's played and he'd love to help if he can.

"And then (the coach) spoke to the next teammate on the phone right afterwards and they said, you do know who you were talking to who just said that their husband would be willing to help? He laughed. He couldn't believe it.

"(Brian) enjoys just being a parent. We have amazing coaches. Our daughter has a coach who knows tons about soccer, so it's fun for (Brian) to just sit back and watch them and cheer them on. He's not one of those parents who wants to jump up and take over. He's happy with the parents we have, and happy watching his kids."

Whether it's true or apocryphal, the story speaks volumes about McBride the person - he's just that modest and unassuming - because McBride is simply the most accomplished and respected American soccer player ever.

Landon Donovan might be the most talented American ever, and someday his resume might surpass McBride's, but for now McBride is at the top of the list. Not even goalkeepers Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel can touch McBride, who last week announced his retirement as a player at the end of the Fire's season.

When another American has a pub named for him in an English Premier League stadium, then we'll consider updating the list.

Through his three World Cups, his role in developing MLS as its first draft pick ever, the path he helped other Americans take to Europe by going first to Wolfsburg as a young man, then starring at and captaining Fulham, nobody has meant as much to American soccer as McBride, an Arlington Heights native who starred at Buffalo Grove High School and St. Louis University before turning pro.

Parents with children interested in sports could find no better role model than McBride. Watching him after practice, he's gracious and friendly when signing autographs and posing for photographs. He's known to be generous with his time for charitable causes.

On the field and off, few garner the respect McBride gets from fans, teammates, coaches and owners. Finding someone to say a bad word about McBride is an impossible task. When the Fire brought McBride back to Chicago two years ago, owner Andrew Hauptman spoke more about his respect for McBride the person than his respect for McBride's abilities on the field. That hasn't changed since.

And few can say they could match McBride's effort. At age 38 he remains one of the most fit players on the Fire roster and probably among the most fit in all of MLS. His work ethic is undoubted. And few have risked their bodies for their teams as McBride has. The images of him bloodied and battered are lengendary, his surgeries too many to count. Still, his health is not the reason he chose to retire now.

"He's been through some crazy injuries," Dina McBride said. "We used to joke around and call him 'The Terminator' because it seems like despite everything that happens he bounces back way before the doctors thought he should. He's handled all his injuries amazingly."

He's a deeply religious man and a family man who also puts his team before himself. Even at his retirement press conference he tried to put the team first, timing the announcement to minimize the effect on the Fire's playoff chase. He thought about just putting out a release, quietly announcing his retirement and fading away.

That might work for other players, but not for Brian McBride. This was one time he would not be allowed to sit quietly on the sidelines.

"I just want him to know how (we feel)," Dina McBride said after hearing her husband movingly proclaim his love for her again at his retirement press conference. "He gets to say all these wonderful things (about us), and as his family we're just all so proud of him.

"People ask if he is what he really comes across as. He really is. He's just an amazing husband, father, a great friend to everybody. He really is a great person, and he's going to do great things (in retirement). We're proud of him."