BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire forward Brian McBride fought through tears on Friday as he announced he will retire after the 2010 season, ending one of the most storied careers in American soccer history.
McBride, 38, told the media that he has been in conversations with his family for more than a year on the decision, which ends a career that took from the early days of MLS to the English Premier League and back to MLS again, with a US record-tying three World Cup appearances sprinkled in between.
“I feel very blessed to be able to announce my retirement in the city where I began playing this wonderful game,” said McBride, a Chicagoland native. “Soccer has given me the chance to travel to so many amazing places and experience so many emotions.
"I know it’s helped me and I know it has helped to form so much of who I am and how I would like to treat people. To be able to have these experiences for 17 years at a professional level was way more than I had ever dreamt.”
WATCH: The Best of Brian McBride
Widely regarded for the toughness and skill that earned him an All-Time MLS Best XI selection in 2005 and eventually a captaincy at Fulham, McBride thanked 25 different parties in an 11-minute speech that at times led to tears as he discussed those who influenced his career.
[inline_node:317545]McBride thanked managers and owners, teammates and friends. He thanked Bruce Arena, his former coach with the US National Team. He thanked the Hunt family, who gave him his MLS start in Columbus. He thanked David Moyes, who coached him in loan spells at Preston North End and Everton.
He thanked fans and cities, too. Seemingly anyone he could mention to avoid talking about himself, even during his own press conference.
“Last night I sent out a text to as many people as I could saying this was going to be happening today,” McBride said. “I sent it late at night and I woke up this morning, got up early and I read one, and I started getting choked up. And I said, ‘I can’t read anymore texts, not doing anything like that,’ because I didn’t want to focus on me.
“I know this is why we’re here, but I really wanted today to be about thanking the people that have been so integral to me both as a player and a person.”
McBride said he started thinking about retirement last year, a season that included the second serious shoulder surgery of his career and extended rehab time until he returned before the postseason.
[inline_node:317535]“It’s been an ongoing thing,” he said. “[My wife Dina and I] talked about it more and more last year when I had my shoulder surgery, and it sort of came to the forefront earlier in this season. … We kept talking and we just came to an agreement that it was time for me.
“It was something I felt that I wanted to do not so much because I didn’t feel like I can’t keep playing, but it was just time for a new segment of my life and a different career.”
McBride cited a desire to spend more time with his family as a significant reason for his retirement.
“I think a big part of this decision is me wanting to be around for my three daughters,” he said. “I want to go to their events on weekends, and that’s tough with [soccer].”
McBride reflected on his playing career once he was pressed by reporters, picking out the 2002 World Cup and the 2007-08 Fulham season as two periods that stand out.
“The easy thing to focus on is the 2002 World Cup,” he said. “That was exceptional. And the last year that I was at Fulham was amazing.
"The rollercoaster ride, coming out and having an injury that I had never had [McBride missed five months that season with a dislocated kneecap], just the sheer jubilation at the end of that campaign [Fulham miraculously survived relegation on the season’s final day] and just being able to celebrate with everybody stand out in my mind.”
McBride, who said he announced his decision now to head off any potential distractions for the Fire, also discussed the possibility of him getting into coaching.
“I’d never say never,” he said. “Right now that’s not my focus but… I won’t say never because I do have such a passion for the game and I think I have a few things in my head that can help people.”
For now, McBride is focused on helping the Fire reach the playoffs.
“This is not the end,” he said. “I am fully committed to helping the Fire first make the playoffs and second win a championship.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.