I had the chance to catch up with USMNT and MLS legend Brian McBride today to get his thoughts on the MLS All-Star Game, how Atlanta United is coming together, and what is next for him.
Brian is working with Allstate and the US Soccer Foundation’s Passback program in San Jose this week. Today, they are part of a clinic and equipment drives at the San Pedro Square Market and Ocala STEAM Academy.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Allstate for a little over three years now. Teaming up with the US Soccer Foundation’s Passback program, it’s a way to have a bigger reach of giving back to the less fortunate. We ask people to donate gently used or new equipment. Through the US Soccer Foundation, you can do that on the website at www.passback.org. We also get to do the clinic. It’s a nice way of giving back.”
Allstate is a soccer sponsor that has been at the forefront of giving back to the community.
“Allstate has been doing this for quite some time. Before me, Tony Meola was with Allstate and traveling around to bring awareness and opportunities to kids. More than just spending some time on a soccer field with them, we also make sure that they have equipment that’s necessary. Allstate has been there for a long time and I think you will continue to see other companies want to be able to have that impact that Allstate has had.”
McBride’s events are part of the activities organized by MLS around this year’s All-Star Game in San Jose. With Atlanta likely to host an All-Star Game in the coming years, I asked Brian what fans can expect.
“These are fun times. You have this build-up around it. Now you have concerts, you had the Men in Blazers putting on a show last night, the FanZone has gotten much larger. It just creates a destination. It provides more of the flair and excitement to the build up of the game itself.”
Brian played in seven MLS All-Star Games during his career in the league with the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire. He has seen both formats, the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference and a league all-star team taking on a foreign club. He prefers the original format.
“Fans enjoy this format, where you have the opportunity to play against one of the better and bigger club teams from a different part of the world. But I really enjoyed when it was East vs. West. You’re seeing so many teams now and high quality players throughout the league that going back to that format, I wouldn’t be a person that voted against that, I liked that.”
“For me, it was so fun as a player to play East vs. West. It certainly was less intense, more of a party atmosphere. You can understand why the league wants to keep it as more of a high quality, even through you’re not going to see a lot of tackles going in especially from the veterans, but you are going to see some real quality soccer.”
One of McBride’s good friends from his career is Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra. He has been watching Atlanta’s club come together with great interest.
“I have a very good friend that's a part of that, so I get to hear from him about how excited he is and how already setup and well into this program they are. Having a chance to be there last year and be around the city of Atlanta and see the support that the city has, I expect it to be an awesome situation. The training setup is going to be beautiful. They've already signed a few players. I know that Carlos is out trying to find and pick some gems up before the draft. I expect it to be a great organization on all accounts. It's always going to be difficult coming in as a start-up, but they have the right people in place and the structure looks like it's going to be amazing.
With yesterday’s news about Sigi Schmid and Roberto Martinez’s name popping up, I asked Brian for his thoughts on what qualities an expansion team should look for in their first manager.
“I think he has to mesh with what style the club wants to play. I know that's something that Carlos is certainly looking at. If you do that, and have some patience, I think you can get it right.”
“It’s all about the personnel. First, it’s going to be finding the manager to play the style that you want and then picking the right players to play in that style. It's always a hard thing considering that you're limited in the players that you get to pick from. With so many teams now in the league and the salary cap issues, there always tends to be two or three players that are either out of contract or trying to work through that. If the club thinks they aren’t going to get it done, they get put on that list for the draft. You can get some good gems.
Would McBride want to follow in Bocanegra’s shoes or go into the coaching profession?
“I have a huge desire to coach, but it would have to be the perfect situation. I don't want to keep uprooting my family. As long as I'm in a situation where I have a little bit of control and I'm enjoying what I'm doing, I won't press. If something comes up, I'm certainly open to the aspect of it. Later on when the kids are a bit older, I'll definitely be looking towards the coaching side of things a little bit more.”