Former CONCACAF Gold Cup MVP Brian McBride sees potential in men’s national soccer team

Brian McBride said the men’s national team is still searching for its identity while at the launch of the Gold Cup Station in the Union Station’s Great Hall.

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Brian McBride answers questions during the Gold Cup Station launch in Union Station’s Great Hall on Monday, July 1 in Chicago. (Concacaf/Matt Mitrick)

Brian McBride knows won the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup MVP after scoring four of the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s nine goals.

Concacaf/Matt Mitrick

Brian McBride knows what it takes to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Arlington Heights native won the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup MVP after scoring four of the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s nine goals to secure their second Gold Cup in team history.

Now — more than 17 years later — the national team has the chance to win its seventh Gold Cup with a semifinal game against Jamaica on Wednesday in Nashville, and a potential finals matchup against Mexico 40 miles away from McBride’s hometown at Soldier Field.

“It’s the best sports city in the world,” McBride said about Chicago hosting the 2019CONCACAF Gold Cup Finalsduring the launch of Gold Cup Station in the Union Station’s Great Hall.“I had a chance to see it in 2013 and it would be great for that to happen again. Not only for the city of Chicago, but more importantly for the players to really have some positivity going forward.”

McBride sees a lot of passion and desire when he watches the men’s team play.

He also sees a group that’s still finding its identity with a mixture ofestablishedveterans and younger players trying to make a name for themselves.

Even though the team hasn’t fully meshed, he believes the fact they have reached the semifinals speaks to the team’s individual talent.

“The quality is there, but the quality as a group can improve,” McBride said. “The last game out against Curaçao wasn’t the best of the tournament. You always want to see improvement as you go along this tournament and that sort of stagnation could’ve been for many reasons, but hopefully, when they come out against Jamaica on Wednesday, there’s growth again.”

Even though most of the soccer attention in the U.S. is on the women’s national soccer team as it looks to win consecutive FIFA World Cup titles, the men’s national team has a lot of pressure to prove itself.

The team didn’t qualify for last year’s FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986 after making seven consecutive appearances.

McBride said the team isn’t afraid to take ownership of its shortcomings and that the pressure will help them grow.

He likes how the younger players on the team have embraced the challenges they’ve faced and have become better because of the adversity.

“Players get better challenges through challenges,” McBride said. “Whether they shrink to them and go away or rise to the challenge and get better and improve. That doesn’t mean you had to succeed with a challenge — you just have to continually drive to get better.”

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