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McBride ready to lead by example

Brian McBride's favorite Olympic memory came a full nine years before Jozy Altidore was born.

McBride still cherishes "The Miracle on Ice," the U.S. hockey team's shock victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games as his No. 1 moment in Olympic history.

Now, coming toward the end of his career at age 36, the national team and English Premier League stalwart finally has a chance to sample the Olympic experience for himself.

A joke about a national team return shared with friend Jonathan Spector reached the ears of coach Peter Novak and manifested into a call-up as one of three overage players in Novak's squad for Beijing. There, he will partner with the 18-year-old Altidore, who was recently sold to Spanish side Villareal from the New York Red Bulls, on the front line.

"For me it is going to be an amazing thing to be part of such an event," McBride said. "You grow up as a kid watching the Olympics, all the sports. … It is going to be a great experience for all of the guys and we will be going there to be successful."

While the soccer tournament in China is an opportunity for the under-23s to showcase their ability and boost their international reputation, McBride is all about using all the tricks gathered during his long career.

In terms of experience and know-how, his input could be priceless.

Having McBride involved will be like having a second coach on the field. And it is in the locker room and the Olympic village where he can really make his mark on the likes of Altidore and 19-year-old Freddy Adu.

Altidore is a big talent and has the potential to become one of the U.S.'s greatest players, but that will happen only if he uses a work ethic and sense of professional pride similar to what McBride has shown in Major League Soccer and the Premier League and for the senior national team.

In a career that has included three World Cups and could have been ended several times by severe injuries if not for McBride's strength of character, the Arlington Heights, Ill. native has always conducted himself in a gentlemanly and supremely professional manner.

"I don't look at myself as 36 and I certainly don't feel 36," he said. "For me it is more about the mentality and I think I have a little more upstairs, as far as experience, that will help me."

McBride was the figurehead of the Columbus Crew franchise after MLS started in 1996. He was selected No. 1 overall in the inaugural MLS draft and spent eight years in Columbus, interspersed with a couple of loan moves to England, before switching to Fulham.

He left the west London club at the end of last season as a firm fan favorite, and he departed with the thanks and good wishes of the club ringing in his ears.

His return to MLS with the Chicago Fire – who had to give up Chad Barrett and draft picks to allocation rights holder Toronto FC – says much about the man. He could have earned far more money spending another year in England but instead chose to put something back into the game in his homeland.

"The Fire will be very happy to have Brian back and we feel that way about him on the Olympic team," Novak said. "The team's spirit is a very important factor and we want to make sure these guys will fight for each other, understand each other and stick together as friends.

"They need to stay focused and concentrated. You want to have a group of players that can create something special. Brian has seen it all in the game and the other guys can learn a lot from him."