COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of the few regrets in Brian McBride’s illustrious US national team and MLS career was being unable to play in the debut match of Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999, because of a fractured left cheekbone suffered the week before in San Jose.
On Saturday night, McBride will have his name placed on the west facade of that stadium as the first member of the Circle of Honor that recognizes icons in the team’s 16-year history. The ceremony will be at halftime of the match against San Jose (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) and numerous former teammates will attend.
McBride, the first player drafted into MLS in 1996, played for the Crew until 2003 when he joined Fulham of the English Premier League.
Even though he spent his final three seasons (2008-10) playing for the Chicago Fire near his hometown of Arlington Heights, Ill., he still has special feelings for the Crew and Columbus.
“A large part of my soccer and growing in life was here,” he said Friday in Columbus. “To say that this isn’t a huge part of who I am and to say that I don’t want any part of it is crazy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. My wife [Dina] and I loved it here. We love it here now. We’ve got so many fond memories here.”
He was tied for the club record with 62 career goals until Jeff Cunningham — a teammate from 1998 to 2003 — scored against Vancouver on July 6 to set a new mark.
“Jeff has been such an amazing player,” McBride said. “He’s a talented guy but he’s also grown as a person. When I see him we have a quick hug, great conversation. I’m so happy for him.”
McBride holds numerous other regular-season and playoff records but he said winning the inaugural game against D.C. United in 1996 as well as the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in 2002 top the highlights of his time in Columbus.
Fans still mention his amazing goal in that first game played before more than 25,000 fans in Ohio Stadium against D.C. United. He collected a 70-yard punt from goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi between several defenders, volleyed the ball to himself then cracked a one-timer.
“I never scored anything like it again,” he said. “It was definitely the most unique goal I’ve ever scored.”
He arrived in Columbus earlier this week to conduct his McBride Attacking Soccer Academy in conjunction with the Crew and he hopes to partner with the club in the future because of his affinity for late Crew and MLS founder Lamar Hunt and his son.
“Lamar and Clark both have always been so supportive of not just me and my family but all the players who have been here,” McBride said. “They’re passionate but they’re family-oriented. That translated to the teams we had. We had a great group of guys that was very much like a family.”
Still, McBride understands that some fans haven’t forgiven him for going to the rival Fire three years ago instead of returning to the Crew after he decided to end his time in the English Premier League.
“If they’re still upset with me, I understand,” he said. “I’ll continue to say what I’ve said: I have nothing but positive things to say, nothing but great memories about being here. I love Columbus. It just wasn’t where I grew up and where my wife grew up. That’s it. It had nothing to do with teams or anything of that nature.”