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Brian McBride and Landon Donovan

U.S. Soccer Legend Brian McBride Weighs in on Friday's Fulham-Everton Showdown


Former U.S. Men’s National Team striker Brian McBride provides some perspective on Friday’s heavily anticipated FA Cup bout between Premier League sides Fulham and Everton (3 p.m. ET, FOX Soccer). The match features U.S. MNT staples Clint Dempsey for Fulham and Landon Donovan and Tim Howard for Everton. McBride spent much of his Premier League tenure with Fulham, though he had an eight-game spell with Everton before his Fulham move.

One of the most highly decorated U.S. Soccer players will no doubt have some interest in this Friday’s fourth-round FA Cup match between Everton and Fulham.

Former U.S. Men’s National Team forward Brian McBride spent five seasons with Fulham and had a stint with Everton. He, like many other U.S. Soccer fans, plans on watching the heavy American presence taking the pitch as Clint Dempsey’s Fulham side squares off against Everton forward Landon Donovan and goalkeeper Tim Howard (3 p.m. ET kickoff, FOX Soccer).

“It definitely adds more interest to the game,” McBride said. “There’s interest from me for both sides because I was fortunate to play for both teams. Having American players that you want to root for, it definitely makes it an interesting factor. For them, it’s just another game in the sense that it’s a team sport. It’s not about matching up against each other, saying, ‘I hope we win so I can beat Clint,’ or ‘I hope we win so I can beat Landon.’ It’s just an added enticement as fans.”

While McBride’s 2003 loan to Everton came before his five-season run at Fulham, his devotion wholeheartedly rests with the Cottagers.

“I’ll always have a spot for Everton, but I’m rooting for Fulham,” McBride said. “It’s pretty funny because I have some good friends at Everton, but my allegiance is with Fulham. I look at my time in Everton fondly, but having spent more time at Fulham and having the chance to really get into the workings that aren’t just the soccer side of things, that is where my allegiance lies.”

For McBride, the American flavor of these types of matches typically meant taking on another U.S. goalkeeper.

“The Americans I usually played against were the goalies like my good friends Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel,” McBride said. “That’s just the aspect of soccer and the sport in general. You just need to have the added focus in these games – that’s about it. You’re going into the game trying to know as much about the game and your opponent as possible.”

This Friday’s Everton-Fulham tilt seems to cover all of the angles. Donovan is back at Everton for his second stint on a two-month loan, and he left such a lasting impression during his 2010 loan that the Toffees wanted him to stay. Howard has been Everton’s backbone since he was brought in, and he recently was in the spotlight for becoming the fourth Premier League goalkeeper to score a goal in early January during a 2-1 loss to Bolton.

But the big story has been the scoring barrage from Dempsey, who late last year overtook McBride for scoring the most Premier League goals as an American.

“When I saw him do that, I was so happy for him,” McBride said. “It may sound crazy, but I’m not a records kind of person, and at first I didn’t even know there was a record. But when I saw that it was making some news, then I realized that it was a great feat for him in the sense that you can see how his career has progressed and evolved. It’s a great legacy.”

Dempsey certainly has set the bar high since then, most recently coming off a hat trick during Fulham’s 5-2 win against Newcastle United on Saturday, Jan. 21. That Premier League hat trick was another first for an American, something where McBride can only recall one instance at Fulham where he had a chance for three goals.

“The last game of the season in 2005, we played Norwich [City] and I had two goals,” McBride said. “There was a play against the goalie where I had an angle for the shot, but I saw Andy [Cole] pull in [and I made the pass]. Other than that … It’s not something you think about.”

With Dempsey, Donovan and Howard taking center stage, their presence is representative of how U.S. Soccer has continued to grow in its international presence. This recent MLS offseason has shown that teams, players and coaches are working with other clubs to give their personnel the best opportunity to continue to improve at the highest level. U.S. U-23 MNT goalkeepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson are perfect examples, spending a brief stint with West Bromwich Albion and Everton, respectively, before entering a 2012 campaign that will include their MLS seasons and potentially the 2012 London Olympics.

“I think this trend will continue as long as people over there perform well,” McBride said. “It’s a win for the club bringing them in, and it’s a win for the club letting a player go, to come back with experience so he’s fully fit and will hit the ground running for the last couple weeks of preseason, before the regular season. There’s an argument to be made here, but what you’re losing in a player not being there in the preseason, hopefully that will flow very quickly because that player’s going to come in with the experience.”

NEWS & NOTES:

Regarding U.S. Soccer’s continuity under U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann: “It’s been a few years since I was in the international realm, whether it’s youth or the full team. It’s the right thing to do. You can see why Jurgen has the idea of trying to bring everything along. You look at companies, any business that’s successful at bringing young or inexperienced workers into the fold. People for some reason look at sports differently, but you have to give the players the same ideas of the first team and what they are doing directionally. You always want to do that.”

On what McBride is doing now: “I took the fall and the winter off to get my “B” license and formally just get out there and try to get involved with U.S. Soccer as much as possible. I’ve been in communications with the Fire about the possibility of helping out, but they are going a different way. So it was time to get the focus back on the academy (McBride’s Attacking Soccer Academy) and stay involved with U.S. Soccer and everything that they’re doing.”

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