Face-off: The Fire’s Brian McBride and the Red Stars’ Kate Markgraf

Pro soccer smackdown!

Chicago pro soccer face-off: Kate Markgraf of the Red Stars and Brian McBride of the Fire

Which fan-friendly Chicago pro sport begins its regular season in April? If you’re thinking baseball, you’re right—but what about soccer, the most popular sport in the world? Both the Fire (men) and Red Stars (women) start this month, and there’s much anticipation for both squads. We spoke to the captains, Brian McBride and Kate Markgraf, about pregame rituals, favorite places to play, and how to generate enthusiasm for their team 

KATE MARKGRAF
Center Defender, Chicago Red Stars 
Age: 33
BRIAN McBRIDE
Forward, Chicago Fire 
Age: 37
BIGGEST CAREER RUSH
My first major tournament [the United States versus Denmark in the World Cup] in 1999. I was playing in front of 80,000 fans, and I made a slide tackle to basically stop a goal that was just ridiculous. I’ve never done that before, and I don’t know where that came from. I was 21 years old.
BIGGEST CAREER RUSH
The first and second rounds of the World Cup—U.S. versus Portugal, U.S. versus Mexico—in 2002. They were big games that had a lot riding on them.
MOST MEMORABLE STADIUM EXPERIENCE
Playing in Athens [against Brazil] in the 2004 Olympics gold medal game. It was a great stadium, full of U.S. athletes that were done competing, and so they were waving the American flags and going crazy. We were getting flipped off by all the Brazilian crowd, so it was hilarious.
MOST MEMORABLE STADIUM EXPERIENCE
Craven Cottage at Fulham [the home stadium of the club he played for in England]. It’s very quaint: [One stand is Grade Two] listed, so there’s a whole side that you can’t touch. If you’re in need of fixing a seat, you have to use the same wood.
PREGAME RITUAL
I stop drinking coffee within two hours of game time.
PREGAME RITUAL
Starbucks coffee going into the game. A lot of times, it’s scrambled eggs and plain pasta for pre-game, but sometimes that’s not possible.
WORKOUT ROUTINE
Two to four hours daily; five to six days a week. It’s usually a combination of weightlifting, agility, ball work—whether it’s time with other people or kicking a ball against the wall—and running.
WORKOUT ROUTINE
Some days, it’s running on a treadmill; other days, it’s running and lifting; other days, it’s running around with my kids; and other days, it’s my wife and I just going for a jog.
FAVORITE ATHLETE OF ALL TIME
Wayne Gretzky. He made everyone else around him look good—that’s the sign of the best player.

FAVORITE ATHLETE OF ALL TIME
Michael Jordan. Growing up [in Arlington Heights], I lived in the city where he was playing! 

ON SELLING HER SPORT
There’s very hot women in the league!
ON SELLING HIS SPORT
The best way to enjoy soccer games is to go with a friend who understands the game a little bit, even if you might think he’s crazy. Then enjoy the atmosphere of Toyota Park—you’ll be won over.

 

Illustration by Ben Shannon

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