United States soccer legend Brian McBride has become a television analyst for Fox Sports since his retirement from the game in 2010. He has also been working with Allstate, conducting soccer clinics and distributing soccer equipment in lower-income areas around various major events in the sport. Allstate recently joined with the U.S. Soccer Foundation as partners in the Passback program to extend the company’s outreach.
McBride spoke this week from San Jose with Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy on the eve of Thursday’s MLS All-Star Game (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), where he was conducting a Passback clinic. He fielded questions about the U.S. men’s national team, the recent Copa America tournament and coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s future.
SN: What did you make of Jurgen Klinsmann’s reported flirtation with the England job – if you think it happened, what you made of all the conversation about him before England ultimately chose Sam Allardyce?
McBride: I don’t think anything was that serious. Certainly it came from somewhere, so if there was interest I wouldn’t be surprised. From my understanding, in talking with people who are not day-to-day involved but certainly know a little bit more, it really wasn’t anything that Jurgen had planned for, or moved into a serious realm.
I think it’s more the English media trying to make sure they cover all their bases. If it was more than that, I certainly hadn’t heard that. As far as Jurgen going along, he’s certainly been planning for the upcoming games.
SN: Entering Copa America, the national team had been having kind of a tough run in competitive games: the Guatemala game in World Cup qualifying, the Mexico game last fall, the Gold Cup last summer. Do you think making the semifinals in Copa maybe changed the trajectory for Klinsmann a bit, maybe put him back on track?
McBride: It certainly answered a lot of questions we had, as far as the media. Going into Copa America I was concerned about who was going to be our back four, how were we going to attack and set up – especially with Jozy Altidore being out. The answers that came out of there, we got answers in the outside back positions. DeAndre Yedlin certainly has grown. Bobby Wood’s growth (as a forward) in the last year has been exceptional. And then you get the result.
There’s always going to be, especially when you’re putting a new back four together, it doesn’t necessarily click as you want. But to me the overall positives that came out of that way outweigh any of the negatives.
SN: If you look at the tournament being here, that level of soccer on American soil for a month, what do you think the lasting impact will be?
McBride: It shows the US Soccer Federation, along with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, can put together a world-class tournament. And that tournament that was played in June, they weren’t even sure a year ago it would happen. To put together something that quick, we’re talking about big-time decisions, the amount of behind-the-scenes getting together, I think everyone involves deserves a lot of credit.
SN: So you think that would bode well for showing the U.S. is ready for another World Cup?
McBride: I would think so. You’re going to have at least four years to plan, if not more, to really get everything just finely detailed and perfectly in place.
There were some issues with the national anthems early on, but that was really the only glitch you could see. The infrastructure stadium-wise, hotel-wise – I think everyone knows it’s a possibility, and it would be great to see a World Cup here again.
SN: In regards to the state of the national team, one of the things that comes up is the fact that Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore all came back to the United States for overwhelming salaries. Do you have a view on whether that was good or bad for their development as soccer players?
McBride: Each situation is a tiny bit different. The salaries are high, but deserved. I’d much rather see U.S. players be thought of in that light instead of worrying about trying to nickel and dime players if they come back from Europe – which does still happen.
We need Clint on the national team. I know going into this tournament a lot of people were wondering if he should be starting or even be part of the group. We don’t have a player who can do what Clint does on the field. He can create things for himself out of nowhere. He can create for others. I think keeping him interested, keeping him fit is going to be hugely important for us going forward.
I think Michael, I prefer him back there in the holding midfield area, and by himself. What we saw in Copa America – Carlos Bacca back there pressing the ball, James Rodriguez – we don’t see a lot of No. 10s pressing the ball. We don’t see a lot of the way the South American teams got after the ball, especially in that middle third, not allowing us prime space. That had an effect on Michael. I think it’s something he looks and knows he could have done a better job, but it’s also something we hadn’t seen a lot. It’s going to be one of those things where he adapts.
SN: Has paying those guys so well been good for MLS?
McBride: I think it is. I’m never going to say a player doesn’t deserve the money they’re paid. They work hard. Clint deserves every dime he gets. It’s then keeping them interesting during the season, and making sure day-in, day-out they’re leading. They’ve been in Europe long enough, and so has Jozy, to leave the impression on the field of, ‘This is what you have to do to get yourself to the top level.’
It’s great to have opportunities for the Americans to get those types of deals and not have to leave for Europe. But I don’t think the culture of MLS or the level of training has reached where as a young player coming through you get enough influence of how quick you need to be playing in practice, the thought process, that how quickly you play in practice is going to emulate the speed of play in games.
That’s why it’s beneficial for players to go overseas and get that. But all you have to do is look at the LA Galaxy and Bruce Arena. That training every day is like the pace of a game. Kids coming through those clubs won’t necessarily have to get that change in culture. The more MLS teams we can have cultures like that, I think the more we can say it’s not a necessity to go overseas. I just don’t think we’re there yet.