U.S. men's schedule, results
McBride spurns Rovers, joins Bocanegra at Fulham.
and Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Tuesday, January 20, 2004) -- A day after former Chicago Fire defender Carlos Bocanegra made his debut with Fulham in England's Premier League, Columbus Crew striker Brian McBride joined him on the London club, announcing this morning he had signed a contract through the 2005-06 season.
McBride's signing created a stir because he was thought to be going to the Premier League's Blackburn Rovers where his United States and one-time Columbus teammate, goalkeeper Brad Friedel works.
"It's like a kick in the bollocks," Rovers manager Graeme Souness told the Independent after also being spurned in his effort to obtain Middlesbrough's teenage left winger Stewart Downing.
McBride reportedly balked at a clause which would have voided his contract should Rovers be relegated. Blackburn is currently three points above the relegation zone. The deal otherwise would have run through the 2005-06 season with differing reports in England estimating the salary to be between $1.1 and $1.5 million. Major League Soccer would have collected a transfer fee in the neighborhood of $2 million
Instead, McBride will earn more than $1.8 million annually from Fulham, Soccernet reported. The amount MLS will be paid for the transfer was not immediately available.
"Brian is a great talent who can combine assisting attacking play as well as getting his fair share of goals," Fulham manager Chris Coleman told the English Press Association. "He has superb aerial ability and has already proved that he can perform each week at the highest level. His experience of the Premiership will also prove a valuable asset to us in the coming months."
"This has been a difficult two weeks and it has been a very tough decision from the get-go," McBride said. "I didn't think an opportunity like this would be available, and when it was, my family and I wanted to hear what the opportunity was. Over the past four years, there has been a lot of talk of me leaving. It has been a long, tiresome process, with many sleepless nights, but we felt it was the right opportunity for us and it was time to move forward. As hard as it is to leave, we felt it was the right thing to do. It is an exciting new opportunity for my family and I."
McBride, 31, was under contract to the Crew and MLS through the 2005 season. He spent his entire eight-year MLS career in Columbus after being the first pick in the inaugural MLS draft in 1996. The seven-time All-Star started 158 of his 161 regular-season appearances for the Crew and also made 22 starts in the playoffs.
MLS will give Columbus a player allocation to replace McBride. "We concluded that we should not decline Brian the opportunity to pursue this potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Crew general manager Jim Smith said. "The consensus was Brian had provided eight tremendous years of service to the Columbus Crew and through his input and professionalism has helped shape the most professional and established soccer club in the United States.
"As we were having our own internal discussions, I had numerous conversations with Ivan (Gazidis, MLS deputy commissioner) regarding the allocation dollars to fill the roster spot. As with all replacement allocations, there is a little bit of give and take. But I was comfortable that Ivan understood the importance Brian has in Columbus and that we would be provided adequate resources to acquire an excellent player. With assurance from Ivan that Columbus would be given the resources, it became likely that a transfer could happen."
McBride is Columbus' all-time leading scorer with 62 goals and 169 points. His 45 assists trail only the 61 by Robert Warzycha. McBride also produced nine goals and three assists in the playoffs.
"The Crew is turning to another chapter in its history," Columbus coach Greg Andrulis said. "We wish Brian nothing but the best as he moves on to play in one of the best leagues in the world. I've never measured Brian by the points he scored on the field. He's been invaluable in the lockerroom, in the community and to the entire Columbus Crew organization."
McBride will be called on to fill the gaping hole left by transfer of Fulham star striker Louis Saha to Manchester United for a fee reported by Soccernet to be $21.85 million. Fulham, seventh in the Premier League and hoping to qualify for European competition next season, is looking to make more acquisitions with its sudden wealth.
"Obviously, the chairman is going to give me some money to spend," Coleman told the BBC yesterday. "Of course, I've got one or two players in mind, but getting them is two different things. . . We'll have one arriving (today), but I'd still like to get another one in."
Fulham fans were more concerned yesterday with Saha's absence than with the arrival of Bocanegra who was shaky at times, but also some strong moments in the Cottagers' dispiriting 3-1 setback to host Newcastle United. In the process, Newcastle (8-5-9, 33 points) hopped over Fulham (9-9-4, 31) into fifth place.
Despite being with the club for less than a week and not having played a competitive match since November, Bocanegra did well enough, going the distance at left back. A clearance of his shot in the 74th minute, went to Sean Davis who laced a low shot off the left post and in to allow Fulham to narrow its deficit to 3-1.
Bocanegra was hesitant and out of position several times in the first 45 minutes, but did much better after intermission, winning three one-on-one tackles. He vacated his position, charging toward the ball in the middle, allowing an unchallenged cross to Laurent Robert for a stunning bicycle-kick goal that put United ahead 3-0 after 54 minutes. That was not surprising since he had only two practices to meet his teammates and learn his new team's system.