FOX Soccer announced Brian McBride will join the broadcast team from Saturday through Wednesday, so obviously somebody’s found the iconic Fulham target man. For years, U.S. Soccer’s been searching in vain, though in fairness, they’re merely looking for another forward like McBride. I’m sure U.S. Soccer knows how to get in touch.
Still, it’s been nearly six years since McBride last suited up for the national team, and to say that they haven’t found a replacement is a small understatement.
Let’s be clear: This isn’t about Jozy Altidore or anybody else currently in the team. Jurgen Klinsmann’s current No. 9 is only 22 years old and has already potted 13 goals for the national team. One day, I’ll be writing posts like this about him. To say he’s not Brian McBride is no swipe at a young and emerging talent. I’m just acknowledges how truly special the former-Billiken was. McBride wore the armband for a Premier League club, for heaven’s sake.
Consider the numbers for the top four scorers in national team history:
* Donovan, Landon, 2000-, 138 games, 46 goals (1 goal every 3 games)
* Wynalda, Eric, 1990-2000, 106 games, 34 goals (1 goal every 3.12 games)
* McBride, Brian, 1993-2006, 95 games, 30 goals (1 goal every 3.16 games)
* Dempsey, Clint, 2004-present, 83 games, 25 goals (1 goal every 3.32 games)
Deuce has both momentum and a little catching up to do, but any way you slice it, it’s an elite group. Once you factor in penalty kick honors, it’s hard to distinguish between the top three.
While goal scoring was McBride’s primary responsibility, it wasn’t the only quality he brought to the table. Far from it. He was the guy you could count on to win that long ball and retain possession as you came out of your own half. A go to guy on set pieces, there was something reassuring about knowing you had a man who was always be willing to go up for challenge (regardless of opponent or circumstance). That same willingness translated into a relentlessness without the ball that became the almost prototype embodiment of the physically fit, hard-working, strong American. No, not all American soccer players are that guy, but given how inspiring McBride was, it’s difficult to begrudge a Premier League fan for getting that impression.
If only the U.S. had 11 Brian McBrides. If only they had one, as the qualities that made him an icon are some of the little things the team’s currently lacking. Who’s the monster in the air? Who’s the guy that terrorizes center backs? Who’s the guy the U.S. can punt the ball to and exhale?
This expression is over-used, but just looking back at the 22 years since the U.S. qualified for Italy 1990, Brian McBride is a once-in-a-generation player. It’s no wonder everybody’s waiting for another to come around.