BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Saturday's Chicago Fire match against D.C. United took a back seat to Arlington Heights native and Fire target forward Brian McBride's final hometown professional moment.
The 17-year veteran had a memorable sendoff. More than a third of the crowd of 19,056 at Toyota Park stuck around to honor the man who has contributed so much for the game of soccer in the U.S., and that carried far more importance than Saturday's scoreless draw between two non-playoff teams.
It was appropriate in a way that the game had no bearing, because it marked the last time McBride will put on a jersey in a professional setting in Chicago. The sendoff did include a few technical glitches, but it did not get in the way of a memorable ceremony that included a video tribute, a few gifts, current and former teammates and family and friends who have watched McBride along the way.
"I was just humbled," McBride said. "That kind of pageantry I'm not used to. It was very nice for the Fire to do that, and my teammates, too."
"I thought the fans and the way the Fire saw Brian out was very good -- very respectful and well deserved," said Fire defender C.J. Brown, who watched the match from the bench. "You're going to miss a player like that in this locker room, in this club, in soccer in general. I'm glad that we at least got a result out of his day. He's going to be very missed."
In the 88th minute, McBride left the Toyota Park pitch for the final time as Calen Carr entered the match. McBride clapped to the crowd on each side of the park, and he shook hands and had a few hugs from Fire and D.C. players as he walked off the field.
It was a surreal gesture, and the moment had a trickle effect. Immediately after McBride came off the field, Carr had a good scoring chance that was denied, and the rebound to Freddie Ljungberg also was close. It would have been poetic to tally a winner immediately after McBride's sendoff, but both teams trudged throughout the match without a goal.
McBride was on the prowl for a goal, and he had several potential chances throughout the first half. The most disputed chance was in the 15th minute, when McBride appeared to be even with D.C.'s defensive back line as Bratislav Ristic provided the setup from the right side. McBride continued the attack, and placed the ball perfectly inside the far right post. But there was no goal. He was whistled offside.
"That happens," McBride said. "The last thing you're going to catch me with is commenting about refereeing."
"It's his last day -- even is [onside], or a little in front," Brown said.
The scoring chances continued after the play, though. In the 43rd, Patrick Nyarko provided a nice feed from the left, but McBride's attempt was blocked by the D.C. defense, and McBride slammed the ground in disgust. Then in first-half stoppage time, McBride headed Marco Pappa's free kick toward the left post, but United goalkeeper Troy Perkins dove to his right and maintained a scoreless half.
The Fire capped off their home slate with only four wins and are now 8-12-9 on the season. D.C. is 6-19-4.
Analysis: The match was difficult to watch as there was little flow from two struggling organizations. But one positive was Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, who had the clean sheet and four saves to his name.
In the 48th minute, Dykstra made a clutch reaction save against Stephen King. Danny Allsopp headed the ball toward the top of the box and King converged with some momentum on his strike. Dykstra deflected the ball into the air, and he then beat Santino Quaranta to the ball to preserve the clean sheet.
In the 86th minute, the Fire had a poor defensive sequence by allowing Carlos Varela to dribble the ball upfield. Quaranta wound up with a strong shot, but Dykstra kept the shutout intact with a key save.
Overall, it was a mediocre draw. But at this stage of an unsuccessful campaign, McBride's final home appearance trumped everything that happened on the pitch.