particularly with McBride in Columbus -- but this time, the focus is squarely on Fulham's pair of "Yanks."
"This matchup is so incredibly appropriate for Columbus, Ohio," said MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis during a Tuesday press conference to announce the All-Star venue and opponent. "Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra both represent the very best of Major League Soccer, both as people and as players, and we're very proud to have them representing us in the English Premier League."
McBride is excited about the prospect of accompanying his new club to his old stomping grounds, but ever the professional, McBride didn't forget that the match will serve as Fulham's final preseason tuneup before starting the 2005-06 EPL campaign.
"The coaching staff had mentioned that there was a possibility of this happening, and I probably pulled their ear a few too many times leading up to it," McBride said. "I'm sure that the guys here will get a chance to see what Columbus is all about, see the fans there, and it gives me a chance to get back and see a lot of friends.
"More importantly, it's going to be a great way to end our preseason. You come in, and you're friends off the field, and when it's time to play soccer, it's time to concentrate on your job."
McBride is already a living legend in Columbus. He was the first draft pick in MLS history and immediately made his mark in Ohio, leading the club in scoring with 17 goals and three assists in 1996. After eight seasons in Columbus, McBride departed as the club's all-time leader in points (169) and goals (62). Upon returning from the 2002 World Cup, in which McBride helped the U.S. to a quarterfinal appearance, the city of Columbus declared July 1, 2002 "Brian McBride Day."
McBride is also the top scorer in MLS All-Star Game history with five goals and eight assists. He was named the MVP of the 1998 event after leading the MLS USA All-Stars to a 6-1 victory over the MLS World team with a goal and two assists. McBride was named an All-Star in each of his eight seasons in MLS.
Bocanegra, who played in two All-Star Games during his time with the Chicago Fire and registered an assist on Carlos Ruiz's game-winning goal in 2003, sees things in a slightly different way. As Crew general manager Mark McCullers said, Bocanegra was a "nemesis" of the Crew when he played in MLS, and the defender said he hopes the fans take it easy on him.
"It'll be nice to see all of the guys from MLS and all of the people from MLS again," Bocanegra said. "Hopefully, the fans don't take us in too tough. I'm sure Brian will get a nice welcome. Hopefully, they won't be too harsh on me, but I think it'll be nice."
Until then, McBride and Bocanegra will continue to try to help Fulham solidify their position in the EPL table. Currently in 15th place out of 20 teams, the Whites are six points away from the relegation zone with 10 matches left to play. Both players have impressed Fulham manager Chris Coleman since joining the club last year, with McBride contributing mostly as a substitute and Bocanegra ever-present at left back.
"I think it's been difficult for Brian because he started and then he hasn't started; he's come off the bench because of the formation that I play," Coleman said. "Carlos has pretty much played in every game since he's been there. He's a center back, and we know that, and we bought him as a center back. But the way it's gone, we've had injuries in that position, so we've played him at left back, and he's done a good professional job for us. We've been delighted with both players."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its club.