Sweet home Chicago for Fire's McBride

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Being able to play for the Chicago Fire allowed Brian McBride to return home again, but it was a move he sought for his family, not his career.

He and his wife, Dina, had grown up in Arlington Heights, Ill., and though McBride's soccer career has relocated them a few times in such faraway places as England, their hometown always remained near to their hearts, and somewhere they considered a possible final destination for their family. When the opportunity arose last season for Brian to join the Fire, he and Dina decided it was time to make that final move and come back home.

Now as McBride, 37, is approaching the end of his second and final guaranteed season with Chicago, he faces the real possibility that the Fire may not pick up his six-figure option for another year.

He anticipated this possibility when he signed a year ago, and as he told himself then, he wasn't coming to the Fire simply to play soccer. As McBride declared on a recent afternoon, if the Fire do opt against picking up his contract, he is willing to call it a career. It's not about him anymore; it's about his family.

"The move was a big move, but we also knew we're parents," McBride said of leaving Fulham Football Club in England for the Fire. "First and foremost are our kids. "For us, we looked at it as an opportunity for our children to sort of grow up in the same sort of setting, schools that we grew up in. We liked it. We thought it was a good way to bring our family up. That was the real main reason we came back."

The McBride family, which includes their three daughters, now lives five minutes from where Brian grew up and two minutes from where Dina did. Their children play where their parents used to play, and attend catechism classes where their parents did.

Like her husband, Dina loves being back in her old neighborhood. But unlike Brian, she hasn't eliminated the idea of relocating again if the Fire deal doesn't come through.

"I never say never," she said. "I think he has a few more years left in him, but he has his own thoughts."

McBride has proved all season that even at his age and even after missing most of July and all of August with a shoulder injury, he's still among the top players in MLS.

On Saturday against Toronto, he came through with a header in the 78th minute to give the Fire a 2-2 tie. In the game before that, just his second since returning from his injury, he set up one of the Fire's two goals with a slight touch on the ball in the box, and teammate Peter Lowry took care of the rest.

For the season, McBride leads the Fire with seven goals in 19 games.

"Brian just adds a different dimension to this team," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "We can play different ways with him and other forwards on the field. He gives us a big presence on the top."

McBride has been everything Klopas expected when the Fire pursued him last season.

"When you have an opportunity like that, you just got to take that and take advantage of that. You feel lucky as a team to have that opportunity. Brian could have stayed in the [English Premier League] a lot longer. He was someone who was playing in one of the best leagues in the world.

"To have someone like that with his leadership, his experience and the guy he is, he's just a great individual and human being on and off the field."

Although Klopas loudly sings McBride's praises, he isn't willing to share his or the organization's thoughts on what they plan to do with his contract next season.

"With the contract, we're going to address it after the season," Klopas said. "Our focus is more than anything right now, like his, is we want to win a championship.

"You put everything together. It's the team's option, but in the end you want someone in Brian's case who wants to be here. Does he want to continue playing for one more year? I know his goal is to win a championship."

Brian's older brother and agent, Matthew McBride, has had a few short conversations with Klopas about the contract, but nothing of substance. Matthew doesn't expect any news until after the season.

Matthew said he knows they're in a strange situation because of his brother's desire to stay here.

"Brian is a Chicago guy with a Chicago family," said Matthew, who is an attorney with Sneckenberg, Thompson & Brody in Chicago. "I think that may limit things somewhere from a MLS perspective. I think at the end of the day he would be prepared to retire if things don't work out for him. Hopefully, that's not the case. I think he has gas in the tank, and he has told me does.

"I know what his family means to him. We're hoping things stay the same for us next year."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.