Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ching Testimonial Friday in Houston - A look via #ThrowbackThursday

The day is here... tomorrow. Former Spokane Shadow and Gonzaga University standout Brian Ching will take the field for the final time Friday as a player in a Testimonial Match presented by the Houston Dynamo and BBVA Compass in honor of the three-time MLS Cup champion, six-time MLS All-Star and former US international featuring a number of current and former teammates.

The Hawaiian has risen to memorable heights in his career. In MLS, he was named Comeback Player of the Year after finishing as co-leader in the league with 12 goals in 2004, also earning Best XI honors. In 2006 he was named MLS Cup MVP following the Dynamo capturing the title, and also received recognition for scoring the Goal of the Year, a bicycle kick goal against DC United.

His MLS performances led to international success, making 46 appearances with the US National Team and scoring 11 goals, including two in 2006 World Cup qualifiers and four in 2010 WC qualifiers.

He was named to the 2006 tournament roster, but sadly, and to some controversially, never saw any action as the team was eliminated with a 0-1-2 group record and aggregate score of 2-6. And although he was on the preliminary roster for the 2010 World Cup, he missed the 23-man roster at the cut. Still, that is quite something for a guy that originally wanted to be a championship surfer as a youth.

Prior to his professional career, Ching broke into the limelight with the Shadow, earning the PDL Rookie of the Year honor in 1998 as one of the league’s top scorers with 15 goals and nine assists.

He was expected to be the cornerstone of a championship campaign as the club was set to host the Final Four in 1999, but suffered a season-ending injury after two matches, fracturing his eye-socket in a collision with Sounders goalkeeper Bill May in a friendly.

At Gonzaga, he set an all-time school record in assists with 23 in his career and had the third-most career goals with 34 while leading the school to two West Coast Conference championships. He earned All-WCC honors three times and in March of 2011 was inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor.

The Brian Ching Testimonial Match is not the first significant presentation by the Dynamo honoring the striker. In May of 2012, he was unveiled as one of the individuals recognized as a key player as not only a part of the team, but of the community as well. He was immortalized with a large photo set upon one of the newly-built BBCA Compass Stadium's pillars around the team's new facility.

Knowing their most recognizable player was calling 2013 his final season, the club has been regularly recognizing his contributions not only to the team, but American soccer over the past few months leading up to the Testimonial.

Below are links to a number of stories and videos featuring or honoring Ching...

Brian Ching 1-on-1 Interview Series - VIDEO

1 - The Early Years (incl. Gonzaga U)
2 - The Major League Soccer Experience
3 - US National Team Memories
4 - The End

Feature - Ching promises to stick around (Houston Chronicle)

Feature - Paul Dalglish on Ching: "Definitely the biggest legend the Dynamo have ever had"

Ching Honored as NFL Houston Texans Honorary Captain: Behind the Scenes Video

VIDEO: Testimonial Match Game Day interview with Jimmy Conrad (starts 21st minute)

The Retirement Decision - September 23

VIDEO: Retirement / Testimonial Match Press Conference (32:13)

Into the Sunset: Dynamo legend Ching announces plans to retire at season's end (MLSsoccer)

Zach Scott has fond memories of Ching from days as teammates (

Brian Ching ready for retirement (Houston Chronicle)

Ching, an ultimate MLS warrior, officially retiring (NBC Sports)

Top 10 Ching Moments - Video Series

10. Ching scores, assists vs. Manchester United in front of home crowd

9. Ching closes out Robertson Stadium with quintessential Dynamo goal

8. Ching wastes no time in return to MLS

7. Game-winning hat trick and bicycle kick vs. Chicago

6. 2006 World Cup

5. Goal of the Year bicycle kick secures a playoff spot

4. Ching powers comeback playoff win against FC Dallas

3. Ching scores his first international goal

2. Ching leaves quite the first impression in Dynamo opener

1. Ching delivers championship in inaugural Dynamo season

My Personal Reflections

Brian was a fantastic guy off the field an astounding player on it. When he began to make his mark in 1998, he was clearly head-and-shoulders better than every other player on the field... literally and figuratively. I am convinced it was his time with the Shadow where his aerial prowess as an attacker really solidified as his vertical put him a good foot or three higher than his markers on a regular basis as he challenged for balls on the attack. He and Zag teammate Chris LaRochelle, a local boy from Mead HS, looked like they were playing catch with a baseball the way the Spokane native seemed to find the head of the high-flying Hawaiian on a regular basis on corners and set pieces. At the end of that season, we were certain the Shadow would be playing for the title only to see it come to a shocking halt early in the divisional playoffs. 

Knowing we were hosting and had an automatic berth in the league's Final Four in 1999, we again had huge hopes and expected Brian to have an even bigger season coming off his 1998 Rookie of the Year award for the PDL. Unfortunately, that one horrific moment against the Sounders early in the season changed everything. It was a grisly scene after the crunching collision that left blood everywhere and the aftermath days and weeks later was a strange mix on the face of the affable Hawaiian as he continued to smile widely during visits during training sessions despite a Frankenstein's monster-like face full of stitches and blue and purple bruises. As the season progressed, we had hopes of his return but as the championship approached it became clear that his final year at Gonzaga was far too much to risk for an early return. 

As Brian's career continued to reach new heights time and again, it was surreal to watch the guy I knew, only three years my junior I should note, score time and again in MLS and for the US National Team. And, in a stroke of fortune, before the Tampa Bay Mutiny were contracted later that year by MLS, I was fortunate through my United Soccer Leagues credentials to attend a 2001 Galaxy match early in his MLS career and watch him play in person from the stands and the sideline, catching up with both Brian and fellow Shadow alum and his Galaxy teammate Craig Waibel after the game. Absolutely, one of my fondest memories.  

Though he has worn a variety of numbers much of his MLS and international career, he will forever be to me: # 9 in Sky Blue 


Spokesman-Review Ching Shadow Feature Story: