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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.