Brian McBride is set to pull on a USA jersey for the first time since 2006, and the former Fulham striker is thrilled about the prospect his long-overdue Olympic debut. The three-time FIFA World Cup veteran sat down for an exclusive chat with FIFA.com in Tianjin on the eve of the Americans' first game against Japan on Thursday.
At 36, he is the oldest player at these Olympic Games, but the excitement and wonder the tall, rangy striker exudes is as infectious as any teenager's. Recently signing a deal to return to Major League Soccer with hometown club Chicago Fire, McBride is hoping to bring a medal back with him to kick off the next chapter of his illustrious career.
FIFA.com: What made you decide to come out of international retirement and suit up for the Beijing 2008 Olympics as an overage player?
Brian McBride: I don't look at is coming out of retirement. It's an opportunity to play with a new team and represent my country at the Olympics. I will not be returning to the US senior team, but this chance to play at these Olympic Games is something I am very excited about.
Was it something in particular about the Olympics that drew you back?
Definitely. As Americans, growing up we really get a sense of the importance of playing in the Olympics. You have this cycle every four years, and excitement and anticipation for the games grows. And this is just a chance for me to be a part of it.
Did you have the opportunity to play in a previous Olympics?
I did, but I was never chosen for the team. My age made me eligible for the Games in 1992 in Barcelona, so that's a few years ago now.
You're probably closer in age to your coach than team-mates like Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu. How does it feel to be the 'old man' in the team?
It's fine. I don't mind it at all. It's really a good group of guys that like to joke around and have fun, but they're also very serious about stepping on the field and representing their country. I don't mind being the elder statesman.
Do you notice this new generation of US players is more professional than when you came up, perhaps as a result of MLS?
They are more seasoned than maybe when I was their age. They definitely have a grasp of what's needed physically and mentally and for sure MLS has fostered this kind of development. Not only that, but now you have these young players who have experience overseas, and full senior team caps too. The professionalising of soccer in America has made these things possible.
Your career in England has come to a close. What are some of the memories you'll take with you from your time there?
The high point for me is having shared it all with my family. My time at Fulham was very special. I got to know a lot of the people at the club very well and the fans and that for me is a very special thing. The team was a strong group of guys and we all stuck together at the end of last year to help keep the club up, and I am thrilled to have been a part of that.
Getting back to the Olympics, you find yourself in a tough group alongside Japan, Nigeria and the Dutch.
We all come in understanding that this is going to be a very tough group. There's no getting around that. Everyone's talking about Nigeria and the Dutch, but we're going to have a very tough game on our hands against Japan in our opener. Right now we're just looking at that first game. We'll concern ourselves with what comes next when we get there.
What are you hoping to achieve as a team in China?
Our goal is to get out of the group; it's as simple as that. If we manage to do that, then we'll just have to see what happens.
Compared to the FIFA World Cup, which you've played three editions of, how is the anticipation ahead of the Olympics?
It's growing! When we were playing the ING Cup in Hong Kong you got the feeling something was slowly building, but now here in China the energy is palpable. You get the sense that it's all happening.