Fire's McBride honored after final home match

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Fire's McBride honored after final home match

Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010
5:28 PM

By Justin O'Neil
CSNChicago.com

The result did not matter for the Chicago Fire on Saturday. While the team has gone through a frustrating season, missing the playoffs after back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances, Saturdays game was only about Brian McBride.

Saturday's 0-0 draw against D.C. United was McBride's last home game as a member of the Chicago Fire, as the legendary striker will retire from the game at the end of the MLS season. The Arlington Heights native is the last of the pre-MLS generation U.S. stars, athletes that came up with all the skills needed but had nowhere to ply their trade.

McBride graduated from Buffalo Grove High School in 1990 as an All-American, and scored 72 goals in four years at St. Louis University. Despite his stardom at the collegiate level, McBride did not have a lucrative offer upon graduation - instead playing for the Milwaukee Rampage indoor soccer club, and a second division German team, VfL Wolfsburg.

The 1994 FIFA World Cup was held in the U.S. and is still the highest attended World Cup in history. As a condition of holding the World Cup, the U.S. was obligated to form a top level league, and in 1996 the MLS kicked off its inaugural season. Before the season, players were allocated, and in the first MLS Draft, McBride was the number one overall pick for the Columbus Crew.

The forward had eight successful seasons with Columbus and during that time spent two off-seasons playing in England, for Preston North End and Everton. He was among the first American players to play in the English Premier League, and in 2004 made a permanent move to London Fulham.

McBride became a fan favorite at the club, helping them twice avoid being relegated from the Premier League on the last day. He is the only American to ever serve as captain of a Premier League team, and is legend at Fulham, with a stadium bar named in his honor.

The example McBride set for fellow Americans on their conduct and the ability of Americans to play in Europe is one that is still evident today. The 1990 and 1994 U.S. World Cup rosters were made up mostly of college and minor-league stars, while today European leagues are filled with American players. Just last week, the U.S. fielded a roster made up of entirely European-based players. The idea of that would have been impossible just 10 years ago, but the success by McBride in England showed that the U.S. was a soccer power and had athletes that could compete in the best leagues in the world.

For the national team, McBride was a stalwart in the starting lineup, scoring the lone U.S. goal in 1998 and scoring twice during the 2002 run to the quarterfinals. He retired after the disappointing 2006 World Cup, but made a brief cameo with the national team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, serving as captain.

McBride was substituted late during Saturday's draw, and received a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd at Toyota Park. His career did not come to a storybook ending, but the story of his career was not one told in storybook fashion. He came up at a time when soccer was on the peripheral of the American sports scene, and retires from a league that has soccer specific stadiums and a fan base that is passionate enough to support an expanding league. He was not the man that led the U.S. to the top of world soccer, but instead one of the building blocks of soccer in America.

McBride helped write the story of American soccer, and as one of its greatest and classiest players of all time, will always be near and dear to those who care about the game. He made a lap of honor with his wife and three daughters at the conclusion of the game, as fans held up their signs and continued to cheer in honor of the legend.

Landon Donovan and Bruce Arena were among the people thanking the striker for his impact and friendship in a video tribute after the match. Team technical director and former U.S. national team member Frank Klopas presented him with a mural from fans, and teammate C.J. Brown thanked McBride for his impact with the MLS.

McBride took the microphone at the end of the tribute, thanking the 'Section 8' fans and the Fire community for their support at the conclusion of his career.

Fire "Section 8" fans were wearing 'Real American Hero' T-shirts at Saturday's game, and to U.S. soccer fans and athletes, McBride will always be a hero and idol.

Bears QB Jay Cutler: 'You can't' replace Matt Forte

Bears QB Jay Cutler: 'You can't' replace Matt Forte

Jay Cutler spent his first seven seasons in Chicago with Matt Forte lined up behind him, but his eighth one will be a little bit different.

The 33-year-old quarterback reported to training camp in Bourbonnais on Wednesday knowing Forte isn't on his side anymore and knows it will take a collective effort to help ease the loss of a two-time Pro Bowler.

"You can't," Cutler responded when asked how you replace Forte. "Just his knowledge and him being here for so long and experience on the field, experience playing with me. Most times I didn't have to tell him something, I just look at him and he knew exactly what I was thinking, so you can't replace him.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!]

"We've got a good group of young backs that we're going to develop and we're going to put as much time as we can into those guys, and they'll get there. It's a good group, it's a talented group, so we're still excited about what we have."

With the departure of Forte, Cutler knows he's become one of the most experienced players on the team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

"I was looking at the roster weeks ago and I feel like there's been a major shift in experience, especially on the offensive side," Cutler said. "I'm at 11 (seasons in the NFL) and then you look down, there's a couple 9s, a couple 8s and then mostly it's five and under, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

"I think a new town, new guys in the building is new energy, new attitude, so I've embraced it, I've enjoyed it. I think the coaching staff has done a great job of getting all these young guys up to speed. It's a good group right now."

Check out the video of Cutler's interview from training camp above.

Notre Dame unit preview: Searching for the next go-to WR

Notre Dame unit preview: Searching for the next go-to WR

With the start of Notre Dame preseason camp approaching fast, we’re looking at what to expect from each unit that’ll take the field in primetime Sept. 4 against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. 

Depth Chart

W (Boundary)

1. Torii Hunter Jr. (Redshirt junior)
2A. Miles Boykin (Redshirt freshman)
2B. Alize Jones (Sophomore)
3. Chase Claypool (Freshman)

Z (Slot)

1A. C.J. Sanders (Sophomore)
1B. Corey Holmes (Redshirt sophomore)
2. Torii Hunter Jr. (Redshirt junior)

X (Field)

1. Equanimeous St. Brown (Sophomore)
2A. Torii Hunter Jr. (Redshirt junior)
2B. Kevin Stepherson (Freshman)
3. Javon McKinley (Freshman)

Hunter has the ability to play all three receiver positions, which is why he’s listed as the “backup” at the Z and X. He’ll probably take most of his reps, though, at the W, where Corey Robinson was in line to play before he retired due to suffering multiple concussions. 

Despite only catching 28 passes for 363 yards last year, Hunter is Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver, which is more a nod to the production lost from Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle. But Hunter took command of Notre Dame’s wide receivers during spring practice — despite barely getting any sleep due to his football, baseball and academic workload — and emerged as an offensive leader in March and April. 

Outside of Hunter, there’s plenty of young, untapped potential in this group. Coach Brian Kelly has raved about St. Brown from the day he set foot on campus, and Notre Dame believes his combination of blazing speed and good size (6-foot-4, 205) will make his a dynamic receiving threat as soon as this fall. Sanders flashed his playmaking ability by returning a kick and a punt for a touchdown last year, though surgery on his hip flexor knocked him out of spring practice and could slow him during preseason camp. 

Holmes and Stepherson both impressed at times during spring practice, too, and are set up to carve out roles in the Irish offense. And Jones is the wild card here — he worked a bit at the W during spring practice and his athletic 6-foot-4, 240 pound frame could create some matchup nightmares if he slides over from tight end. 

Biggest question: Who becomes DeShone Kizer/Malik Zaire’s go-to target?

Fuller became a get-out-of-jail free card almost immediately for Kizer last year, with that 39-yard game-winning heave at Virginia sparking a rock-solid season for the new Irish quarterback. Brown, too, used his savvy skills to make some big catches, like his touchdown at Fenway Park against Boston College. 

But with both of those guys gone, Kizer or Zaire will need to figure out who that reliable pass-catcher is. The good news is Notre Dame has had one every year of the Kelly era, from Michael Floyd to Tyler Eifert to T.J. Jones to Fuller. 

Hunter is the most experienced one of the bunch, though St. Brown or Jones could very well emerge as that guy, too. But given Notre Dame’s track record, wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock deserves the benefit of the doubt here. 

Youthful impact

McKinley and Claypool both were four-star members of Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class. There are some questions about whether or not Claypool, who was listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds on signing day, could someday move to tight end, but for now, he’ll get a shot as a receiver, probably on the boundary. 

Stepherson, a three-star recruit, was roundly praised by coaches and teammates for how quickly he picked up the Irish route concepts and offense during spring practice, and his ability to catch the ball at a full sprint over the middle makes him a candidate to contribute as a freshman. 

Notre Dame hasn’t shied away form playing freshmen receivers in the past, and without much experience in this group, there could be opportunities for all three first-year players to get on the field this fall. 

They said it

“There’s a lot to be gained from playing baseball, but you have to be a special individual, especially at this level. I think the gains are competitiveness, discipline and the maturity that he shows and his ability to handle it.” — Brian Kelly on Torii Hunter Jr., who was drafted and signed by the Los Angeles Angels this summer

Comcast unveils new technology for Rio Olympics

Comcast unveils new technology for Rio Olympics

Comcast is rolling out new technology that will give Olympics fans a unique viewing experience. 

The X1 platform will give users access to more than 6,000 hours of live, on demand and streaming Rio Olympics events. Fans can follow athletes, nations and teams with ease throughout the Rio Games, and also record or view on demand. 

The ability to customize the Olympics experience will give audiences an unlimited scope and make it easy to watch what they want, when they want.