Chicago Fire

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.

With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

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With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

There aren’t many easy games left on the Fire’s schedule, but Saturday’s game in Philadelphia appears to be one of the more winnable games remaining even if it is on the road.

The Union have a respectable 7-4-3 home record, but are out of the playoff race and are winless in six straight. The Fire hope to pick up a second straight road win, keep pace with New York City FC and stay ahead of red-hot Atlanta in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The game will be televised on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

While on paper the game is winnable, the Fire will once again be significantly shorthanded in midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho are both out with injuries. Schweinsteiger will miss his third straight game while Juninho will be out for two in a row. The Fire beat D.C. United 3-0 with Dax McCarty pairing with Drew Conner in central midfield last weekend.

With Joao Meira returning from injury as a sub in that win against D.C., coach Veljko Paunovic could run a similar lineup to the one from last week or elect to go with three centerbacks in an altered formation. Either way, the Fire remain without key pieces during a time of year when the team wants to be hitting its peak with the playoffs just over a month away.

“You want to get your top 11 group on the field together so they can get games, but if that’s not the case then you can also get guys experience and you can get younger guys in games that mean something and that matter because there’s no substitute for experience,” McCarty said. “You can’t replicate that in training. Guys like Drew Conner, guys like Djordje (Mihailovic). Those guys that are going to be very important for us in our playoff push and our depth heading into the playoffs.

“That’s the reason why depth is so important in MLS because while you would love to be able to count on your first 11 every single time you step on the field, (but) that’s not the case. I think we’ve seen that throughout the whole season. I don’t think we’ve had our first 11 group on the field together for months so you want depth and obviously it’s important to get guys healthy."

The extent of Schweinsteiger’s injuries hasn’t been clear. He had a bruise on his calf from a collision during the match in Montreal on Sept. 2, but also has a thigh injury. Schweinsteiger appeared to be nearing a return last week when he was running and working out in training separate from the group, but he was not at training on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which implied a setback.

When asked about Schweinsteiger’s status, Paunovic has remained coy.

“Basti is very important for the team,” Paunovic said. “We want him as soon as possible. We will provide all the help that we can. As soon as we can have him back it’s going to be very important for the team. Also during that time we have guys who are prepared and ready and want to step in.”

Everyone knows he is a key absence, but the team has a solid 2-1-3 record without him this year.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see the positive attributes that he brings to the team,” McCarty said of Schweinsteiger. “He’s been one of our best players and obviously he’s a focal point for the way that we do things, not only defensively, but attacking as well. He’s a guy who teams have to account for whenever he’s on the ball. His vision, his ability to make plays within the game, knowing what the game needs and what time, you can’t substitute that. It makes my job easier, it makes our strikers’ jobs easier, so it’s a big loss not having him on the field.”

Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union

Where: Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, Penn.)

TV: CSN + (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (14-9-6, 48 points), Union (8-12-9, 33 points)

Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

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Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

On this edition of Nerds in Sports, we talk with io9.com senior editor Rob Bricken.

Rob explains how he juggles being a fan with being a ‘professional’ nerd, how he came to run io9.com, plus his theory on why Rey’s parents are in Star Wars may shock you.

Kevin Anderson and Michael Piff co-host. We are Nerds. In sports.

Listen to the Nerds in Sports Podcast here.