When the final whistle came Thursday, U.S. forward Brian McBride knew it was not just the end of the game, but the end of his World Cup career.
“I got choked up a few times,” the former St. Louis University All-American said after a 2-1 loss to Ghana that eliminated America from the World Cup. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the team and the players I’ve been with. If it is (the end), I have no regrets.”
McBride, playing in his third World Cup, turned 34 Monday, and he would be 38 at the next World Cup in South Africa in 2010. For most players, 38 is too old to compete at the international level at forward. He didn’t rule out playing some more with the team, but he’s pretty sure that by the next World Cup, he’ll be out of the picture.
“I’ll talk with my family,” McBride said. “I know this will be my last World Cup.”
McBride won plaudits for his hard work on both sides of the ball, especially in America’s 1-1 tie with Italy, but as a goal scorer, he came up empty. The Americans scored twice, and McBride wasn’t really involved either time. One was an own goal by the Italians, and the other was a goal by Clint Dempsey set up by a nice pass by DaMarcus Beasley.
McBride nearly tied the game in the 66th minute, getting his head on a cross by Landon Donovan and putting it off the left post. Instead, the team’s scoring frustrations continued.
“I knew it was a tight angle,” he said. “I hit it the way I wanted to. Either it goes through the goalie’s legs, it hits the post, or it hits the leg and goes in. It’s not like being in the center of the goal, which would be great. … It’s one where you try to make sure you don’t get too much on the ball and get just enough.”
McBride has made 95 appearances with the national team but likely won’t get to 100. He has scored 30 international goals, four behind all-time U.S. leader Eric Wynalda, and unless he gets in some post-World Cup matches against a patsy, he won’t catch that mark. Not that it matters. For McBride, all of those are just numbers.
“I don’t care about that,” he said. “If I cared about that, I would have come in for all the friendlies and gone to the Poland game and played. This is a team game, and it’s a great achievement to get there, but it’s not the be-all end-all.”
“Personal things, they dissipate,” he said. “Players break records, but the things that stand the test of time are team achievements, and unfortunately we were unable to do that this tournament. The one thing that went through everybody’s heads and that everybody remembers is going to the 2002 and doing what we did.”
Fond memories of 2006 will be harder to come by. The Americans fell behind in the first half of all three games. The opening game against the Czech Republic was a weak effort that dampened the whole tourney.
“The first game, we weren’t prepared,” he said. “We were prepared, we just didn’t come out and play. It has a lot to do with confidence and energy. The next two games we did better, but it wasn’t enough.”