Crew’s bid for McBride fails
Former Columbus ace will stay with Fulham

Shawn Mitchell

Former Crew striker Brian McBride has decided to stay with English Premier League club Fulham FC and will not return to Columbus this season, general manager Mark McCullers confirmed yesterday.

McCullers said McBride and Fulham reached an agreement Tuesday on a contract extension believed to be worth at least $2 million.

"We were in competition for him until that point," McCullers said. "We felt all along that if they decided to get serious about signing him they were going to be able to do it and we were not going to be able to compete."

McCullers wouldn’t say how much the Crew offered McBride, a 34-year-old national-team veteran, but said the offer was worth "at least seven figures." Major League Soccer typically does not make salary information public.

The Crew’s highest-paid player last season was defender Frankie Hejduk, who reportedly made a base salary of $200,000.

McBride and his U.S.-based agent and brother Matt are withholding comment until today, when they are expected to announce that he has re-signed with Fulham, where he has spent the past 3½ seasons.

Columbus finished in last place in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons. It acquired Chicago Fire team MVP Andy Herron in a draftday trade Friday but was pursuing McBride to help bolster an offense that scored a league-worst 30 goals in 32 games last year.

McBride is the leading scorer for Fulham, which is tied for 12 th place in the 20-team Premier League. He was a seven-time all-star and scored a club-record 62 goals for the Crew between 1996 and 2003 before transferring to the England.

The Crew was able to pursue McBride under the new MLS designated-player rule, which allows clubs to sign one player whose salary falls outside the league’s cap and is not subject to a normal maximum of approximately $350,000. The rule helped the Los Angeles Galaxy sign English star David Beckham to a reported five-year, $250 million contract last week.

"What we offered Brian had to be at a certain level or he wouldn’t have been considering it," McCullers said. "He thanks us for our interest and our diligence. We did work very hard at signing him."

McBride, who is from the Chicago area, has expressed a desire to finish his career in MLS and inquired about a return to Columbus.

"I told both Brian and (agent and brother) Matt that my crystal ball was in the shop," McCullers said. "We have to move forward with our immediate plans and needs. Where that will leave us a year from now, I couldn’t say.

"Our quest for a designated player is not one-dimensional. We’re feeling some pressure, but we’re trying to build something that’s going to have legs for years to come."

McCullers said the Crew will continue to search for offensive help from foreign free agents. The Crew is eager to take advantage of the designatedplayer rule and also has salarycap room and league allocation money to spend on players who can be signed through traditional means.

The current international transfer window is open until Jan. 31 and "we’re still in a position to go and get a forward as our designated player," coach Sigi Schmid said. "We also have some more money to go and get a midfielder."

The Crew has four selections today in the supplemental draft, but the players it selects likely will be long shots to make the roster.