013114_mcbridebrian_isi_xl_usmnt060405242 John Todd/isiphotos.com
ASN Interview

Brian McBride Discusses Korea, Altidore, and Brazil

In a wide-ranging interview with ASN editor in chief John Godfrey, U.S. soccer icon Brian McBride discusses Saturday's friendly with South Korea, World Cup rosters, MLS, and much more
BY John Godfrey Posted
February 01, 2014
11:50 AM
BRIAN MCBRIDE SCORED 30 GOALS for the U.S. national team in 96 appearances from 1993 to 2008, and he was the first American player to score in two World Cups. A tireless worker and an all-around good guy, McBride was so beloved at Fulham that the club named a Craven Cottage pub after him.

Now an analyst for Fox Soccer and Fox Sports, McBride spoke with John Godfrey about Saturday's friendly against South Korea, Major League Soccer's high-profile player signings, and the 2014 World Cup. The following interview has been lightly edited.

AMERICAN SOCCER NOW: What are you doing in Los Angeles, Brian?

BRIAN McBRIDE: I’m out here with Allstate and to see the U.S. men’s national team with Korea. I’ll be doing an hour-and-a-half autograph signing from 12 to 1:30 (Pacific) so I’ll have a chance to meet with some fans, sign some autographs, and take some pictures.

ASN: For a number of the U.S. players on the roster for the South Korea match, say Landon Donovan and Matt Besler, they’re likely already on the World Cup team. For many others, this is a big opportunity. Were you ever in that position as a player?

McBride: For sure. For me, personally, it happened in 1998. It came down to one game. I knew that specifically. Steve Sampson had told me that I was coming in at halftime for another forward, and from this game he was going to make his [World Cup] choice. That’s definitely not the case with this group and this camp, but a good performance can put your name into coach Klinsmann’s head.

ASN: That's intense.

McBride: These January camps are always two things. One, they’re nerve-wracking. Two, they're a great way to integrate yourself into a team. A lot of these camps feature players who aren’t necessarily first-choice starters, but players can create a bond [among the guys]. Another thing that comes out of these camps is a better understanding of one another. They’ve been together for almost a month now, playing twice a day for the most part. So you get to see intricacies and a better understanding, and hopefully that translates into the game.

ASN: You’re distinctly qualified to talk about Then vs. Now. Is this team better than, say, the 1998 squad?

McBride: There’s more competition within this team—there’s been a lot of talk about that. But there’s a better understanding of how things are going to be moving. In the past we sort of had to play one way: direct. It didn’t matter if it was me, or Joe-Max, we knew we were going to defend a lot and we needed to get forward quickly. We weren’t going to be a possession-oriented team for the most part.

I think with this team there is a feeling that they don’t have to play one way. There’s been lots of talk that Jurgen Klinsmann wants to pass through teams. I think what he’s done is they can break a team down by passing, they can break a team down by going forward quickly. It’s about figuring out within the game what the other team is going to give you. He’s done a very good job and so have the players.

Clint floats all over. Landon floats all over. You’ve got Michael Bradley, who has the ability to pick out a long pass but also can be decisive with the short balls too. I think when you have those different dynamics you can break down teams differently.

ASN: You mentioned Dempsey and Bradley. What do you make of their return to Major League Soccer?

McBride: Clint’s return surprised me only in the fact that MLS did it. I’m glad. They need to do more of it. And [it’s good] that they brought back Michael Bradley, and now Maurice Edu is coming back.

Going to Europe helps you grow as a player. The day-to-day trainings, seeing the different cultures, and the different understanding that players from all over the world have—seeing that day in and day out helps you grow. The great thing about Michael and Clint and Maurice is they’ve been in Europe long enough to see all of that. I guarantee you that Michael Bradley is not going to sit on the sideline and say, ‘Ehhh, I don’t really want to train today.’ The good thing is they hopefully will bring back the attitude that they learned over there that helped make them better, and pass that on to young players in MLS. And then hopefully MLS will continue to grow.

ASN: European teams typically have bigger rosters than MLS squads, and there is more competition for spots in the starting lineup. How important is that?

McBride: It’s a good question because everybody talks about how competition is so beneficial, and I agree to a certain extent. You want to make sure players don’t get stagnant. I also think there are players who look inwardly more than most think, who don’t need competition to push them. There are certainly players who take days off. Those players will be affected by a lack of competition more than players who never take a day off because their inner drive is so strong. For the most part, competition is very good but if it comes to a point where your teammate is hoping you get injured so they can play, it’s not good.

ASN: MLS certainly seems willing to splash the cash for these American stars. How important is that from a player perspective?

McBride: It’s another positive. It speaks to MLS’ commitment. In the past it wasn’t always that way for American players. As a player, that’s what you want. You want options. I hope it long continues for Americans.

ASN: What’s the latest on Fox's TV deal with MLS? What can you share?

McBride: From my understanding, nothing has been signed or agreed. Fox has put in a bid, and a good bid. I’m like you—I’m waiting to hear.

ASN: Circling back to the match vs. South Korea, are there any players you’re excited to see?

McBride: There are definitely players I’m excited to see. For me it’s all about who can help the national team. There are quite a few players who, I think, can make that push. Personally, I think Mike Magee is one of those players.

ASN: Like you, he’s a Chicago guy…

McBride: He’s a Chicago guy, and I’ll always back [hometown guys]. But it’s deserved. Mike has always been a very smart player. He’s a guy you can count on in certain situations. He understands the game extremely well. And he’s not going to cause you any problems. What he will do is make the right decisions. With a player like that, who is in the right position at the right time, those are the types of players you need in the World Cup. You can pull them off the bench and say, ‘Hey—we need you to go do this, go do that. If you get a goal, perfect.’ But he’s not going to hurt you, and any team could use players like that.

The other guys who don’t have caps…it’s going to be an uphill battle. DeAndre Yedlin is an interesting one...

ASN: What is the January camp experience like for players?

McBride: When you’re in a January camp and it’s week one, it’s a drudge. It’s a lot of fitness and a lot of getting your body going again. At this point, after a few weeks, you’re so hungry. You’re fit. You’re dying to get into a competitive game. I know they had a couple of closed-door games, but it’s not the same. Knowing that you’re not only going to have your coaches scrutinizing you, you’re going to have the whole United States soccer community scrutinizing you. It’s going to be a fun day.

ASN: Let’s talk U.S. strikers for a minute. How do you assess the U.S. forwards corps? What will it take for them to succeed in Brazil?

McBride: I think Jozy is going to be the main guy and I really want to see Aron Johannsson partner with him. I really like Johannsson every time I see him. Not only has he looked lively with his movement and his understanding, but his feet look sharp, he looks quick. I got a chance to see him in a few Europa League games and he’s someone who’s always in the box.

For us to succeed, it goes back to the dynamic midfielders we have. They’ll make the box. I just want to make sure that the forwards also make the box. Because sometimes, with hold-up play, you get caught outside of it. And it’s not because they’re doing something wrong—they’re just trying to bring in their teammates. As a group, it’s going to be a committee. But I do think there is plenty there with Aron Johannsson and Jozy.

ASN: After a remarkable year with AZ Alkmaar, Altidore has struggled to get on the score sheet this season with Sunderland. Is that something that can weigh on a striker?

McBride: It seems to me that he’s had to battle a lot more. It’s not like he’s running onto balls or he’s opening his body and balls are being played across him so he can get on the end of them. He’s had to battle. As a forward, if you stop believing in making a run, that’s when things are going to hurt you. I haven’t seen a lot of that.

You always want to see your forward play with confidence and score a lot of goals. But I’m enjoying the fact he’s being unselfish, he’s working hard for the team. And let’s be honest—there haven’t been a lot of opportunities for him. Are there concerns? Yes. But hopefully he’ll step back in with the national team, those opportunities will come, he puts them away, and confidence is restored.

ASN: I think you spoiled a lot of U.S. soccer fans with your nonstop running and never-say-die attitude. It's part of the American identity in Europe.

McBride: That perception is definitely there. And listen, we’ll wear it proudly. Let’s hope that on top of that, there’s quality. Clint has definitely shown that.

What do you think of McBride's perspective on the U.S. national team? Where do you see him ranking on the Americans' all-time list? Share your thoughts below.

And if you’re attending Saturday’s sold-out match, stop by the Allstate Fan Zone at the Stub Hub Center and say hi to Brian. He’ll be hobnobbing with fans from noon to 1:30 Pacific.

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