Since retiring as a player after the 2010
MLS season, former U.S. national team star Brian McBride lived quietly in the Chicago suburbs close to where he and his wife, Dina, grew up.
He did television work for Fox Sports and ESPN and worked on a few soccer projects. When Jurgen Klinsmann was U.S. men's national team coach, McBride says the German approached him about working with the national team, but nothing concrete.
Things changed as his daughters got older.
"Nine months ago, my wife and I sat down and we basically, I started having this conversation with her about the desire to get back into professional soccer," he said. "That aligning with our family, our daughters getting older, it just was a perfect-timing situation."
On Friday, McBride's world changed when he was named general manager of the U.S. men's national team. Since then, he's been in Bradenton, Florida, with the national team at January camp.
Difference in experience. Unlike his new boss and former teammate on the national team, U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, who spent more than a decade in senior management roles at NAC Breda and AZ in the Netherlands and MLS's Philadelphia Union before becoming the men's national team GM in August 2018, McBride has no management experience in pro soccer. Stewart doesn't see that as a problem.
"Captaining various teams was an important part of the job," Stewart said. "There are some innate qualities that a person has and that you need to have as a manager. When I look at Brian and those unique interpersonal skills that he has, they are outstanding. When it comes to that relationship building and making sure that we're collaborating with clubs and players and coaches on the other side -- one, domestically, but, two, on the other side of the ocean -- those are skills that are going to be very, very important for this job."
McBride says he is going to use the experience in his playing career that took him to Wolfsburg in Germany, Preston North End, Everton and Fulham in England and the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire in MLS and well as his TV work since he retired.
“I’ve done that as a captain of a team," he said. "I do have experience in that, just not necessarily as a general manager.”
McBride's job as general manager will take him on the road a lot from now on.
"Creating partnerships and building networks with domestic and international clubs is something that's just vital and very important," Stewart said. "So there's a lot of traveling that goes into that. Making sure that we're meeting with coaches, general managers and maybe even more importantly our players."
Difference in responsibilities. McBride will be responsible for the hiring and firing of the men's national team coaching staff -- subject to consultation with Stewart and the appropriate federation approvals -- but he won't have the broad authority over the entire men's program, down to the youth teams, like Kate Markgraf has on the women's side. (The introduction of a director of methodology will bring a new top-down oversight to both programs.)
Stewart explained the difference in the responsibilities of the two GM jobs on the extent of McBride's work involved in developing partnerships and building networks with international clubs, which doesn't exist with the women's national team, which currently is dominated by NWSL players.
McBride, whose contract will run through the 2022 World Cup, and Berhalter were teammates on the 2002 and 2006 U.S. World Cup teams, and McBride followed Berhalter's coaching career at the Columbus Crew (2014-18), where he started out his MLS career in 1996.
"Having watched Gregg coaching the Crew and having a close eye on Columbus, of course, being an alumnus, you could always see how organized Gregg's teams were," McBride said. "That was there to be seen this past year. The other thing you don't get to see, it's a complex way of shaping your team. Sometimes it takes a little bit. You have to have a good soccer brain and understand what the ideas are. Sometimes maybe there wasn't always that connection in some games."
McBride said the results were good in 2019, Berhalter's first year in charge, but he said something was often lacking.
"I think results have been good," he said. "We went 11-5-2 last year, went to the Gold Cup final, advanced to the Nations League knockout rounds. Those are all big things. Having said that, certainly I think there was a need for some pride. Sometimes, and I said this as a player, when I didn't have it, when I didn't have my full quality of game, I made sure that I still gave everything I possibly could, and I had pride in that. Certainly, I think there was a need for some pride sometimes. Sometimes, we may have lacked a bit of that effort. At times, there was a lack of real focus and determination. I think I can help with those things.”