Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Could Halloween be Ching’s last hurrah?

If you are a local soccer fan, you may want to postpone trick-or-treating with the kids or turn the TV on at the party to catch the game on ESPN2 at 6:00 pm PT.

When the Orange Crush aptly take the field on Halloween Wednesday night on the road against the Chicago Fire, it could very well mark the end of the playing career of former Gonzaga and Spokane Shadow PDL forward Brian Ching if his Houston Dynamo fail to advance from the opening round match.

The last offseason was an eventful one for the Hawaiian. The MLS veteran and ex-international striker unveiled nearly a year ago that the upcoming 2012 campaign could very well be his last as he was looking forward to being a part of the unveiling of the Dynamo’s new stadium. As it turned out, he and Craig Waibel, a fellow Shadow alum, were among several honored when BBVA Compass Stadium was opened in mid-May.    

A Dynamo promo for 2012 playoffs
But it was a long road to get to that point for Ching. The club, figuring the expense of his contract, which runs through 2013, and his consideration of retirement would frighten off the incoming Montreal Impact left the star forward unprotected in the MLS Expansion Draft and paid the price when the newcomers surprised everyone and selected Ching with the first pick in the late-November draft.

The selection began a long series of speculative stories of premature retirement and trade rumors between the two clubs in regards to his return and who the Impact could be after. Eventually, however, Ching decided in the first week of the new year to give it a shot, announcing he would not retire and was going to report to the Canadian side.   

After about of month of training with the Impact, Ching returned to the Dynamo in mid-February courtesy of a trade in exchange for a conditional draft pick, a bargain for Houston.   

Back to status quo, Ching was heading back into what could be his final season, which he told the media two days before the Dynamo’s heartbreaking 1-0 MLS Cup defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the club that drafted him 16th overall after finishing his collegiate career at Gonzaga.

“At this point, I want to play in a new stadium,” said Ching, the 1998 USL PDL Rookie of the Year for the Shadow, just before the 2011 league final. “I want to play in Houston for another year and that’s as far as I’m looking right now. Maybe one more year. Maybe if I have a great year next year, maybe another year. But at this point probably one more year.”   

“I’ve had talks with our organization and I want to help us continue to keep our organization as one of the best in MLS. And I think it’d be something that I’d like to is stay with the club in some form or capacity."

The front office aspect is one that he recently reiterated via Twitter, saying “Yes, I'm already in discussions about a position which will include doing public events.”   

As far as having a “great year” is concerned; that has not exactly been the case. Though he has played more games this season (30) than any other in his 11-year MLS career, his 13 starts are the fewest he has had since his injury-plagued 2005 season with the Earthquakes. He has not made a start for the Dynamo since the end of July, playing no more than 34 minutes in the nine appearances since then off the bench.  He enters his ninth postseason with only five goals and five assists.

Age and fatigue do appear to be an issue at the forefront of Ching’s mind according to another – more comical – tweet recently, saying “(Went) to Madonna concert last night. She was impressive the way she moved around at her age. Think I might be in a wheel chair by then haha.”     

One could only hope for one of two things to happen Wednesday... the start of a fourth MLS Cup championship run or for him to mean hello when saying "Aloha" to the idea of playing again in 2013.