WARREN, N.J. (May 15, 2002) - With four goals and two assists so far this year, U.S. forward Brian McBride has made a stellar return to the U.S. fold in 2002. He led the USA to its second CONCACAF Gold Cup championship in February, earning the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot as the tournament's MVP and leading scorer. McBride, 29, was the USA's lone goal scorer in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. We talked with Brian about the development of understanding amongst the forwards, erasing the ghosts of 1998, and more ...
ussoccer.com: One of the focuses of training camp has been to try and settle on good combinations at the striker position. How has that progressed, and how has the group progressed overall?
Brian McBride: “Everybody’s progressing good, regardless of who will be up there. In training we’ve been switching around a lot. The main thing is finding a starting pair, but we have the luxury of knowing that everyone is comfortable playing side-by-side with each other. As a group, I think we’re getting sharper around the goal. In training we’ve been going a lot more in front of the goal in terms of shooting, which I not only enjoy, but I think it helps my game immensely. It’s about repetitions.”
ussoccer.com: The loss of Chris Armas is going to be difficult, more so than some people understand. What are some of the contributions that he makes to the team that aren’t so obvious to the casual fan?
BM: "I hope all of them are obvious, because he does so much. But a person who just watches the team once ore twice doesn’t understand how much work he does to shape our posture in the back. In every game people get an understanding of how many balls he wins and how easy he makes it look. He has such a high work rate. I still don’t see how people can say he’s an average player. You never have to worry with Chris. He’s as solid a player as there is. Your defensive midfielder is rarely a player who’s going to win games for you, but he can have a huge positive impact. He always seems to get it right. Personally, there’s not a better person on the team. He always has an interest in what you’re doing, and if there’s something he can do for you, he’ll do it. He’s a very selfless person. We are fortunate to have some very good players on our team, and we just need to come together somehow.”
ussoccer.com: The team can’t seem to escape comparisons to the 1998. Do you find yourself considering the differences between this team and that squad?
BM: “I think it’s hard to compare for me. I’m different. It’s a much different attitude now. Having said that, I think people bring up 1998 way too much. I think everyone was looking forward to the World Cup in 1998, there just wasn’t complete harmony, meaning on the positive end of things. I don’t think the players had the right attitude, or the coaches. But that was a different time. It’s something that happened. Right now we have to go about preparing ourselves. If we play our best soccer and don’t get positive results, we have to be happy with that. It’s not our goal, but soccer is a weird game. Sometimes you have a great game, you play well as a team and you don’t win. You just have to be focused on the right things.”
ussoccer.com: Any particular personal goals for this year’s World Cup?
BM: “I’m looking forward to being a part of the World Cup. No expectations. I’m sure it’s going to be very different from France. I’m not really thinking about it. Right now I’m concentrating on training, getting better and trying to sharpen up.”
ussoccer.com: Pierre Barrieu (the USMNT strength and conditioning coach) has worked this team pretty hard these last two weeks. How long will he survive with this group?
BM: (laughs) “I think everybody likes Pierre. They just give him a really hard time. He handles it very well. He understands it.”
ussoccer.com: We’re surprised no one has stolen his stopwatch ...
BM: "I’m sure that would happen if someone knew where it was.”
ussoccer.com: The team started the year off with tremendous success in the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup. How important was that performance in setting the tone for the preparations for World Cup?
BM: "Very important. The Gold Cup was our first competition of the year. I think all of us wanted to get it right from the beginning. We wanted to set a good foot forward and keep traveling in that direction. For me personally that was a definitely a goal. I think everybody’s attitude was right from the get-go. It showed in our trainings and in our games. Everybody had a positive attitude, which can be tough when you’re in a situation where you’re training so hard. A lot of people could have been complaining, but we were all trying to reach the same goal. With our success, you put it in your heads and your opponents' heads that you are a tough team to play against. That type of thing is contagious confidence. Carrying over to now, I think last Sunday’s win against Uruguay was a good result. We certainly have the right mindset. We have some distance to go, but we’re on the right track.”