Over the past two weeks Dynamo Theory writers have shared their memories of Brian Ching as the team prepares to celebrate the career of the Houston Dynamo legend. I am honored to have the same opportunity, and am thankful to be able to share those memories with you all.
When I think about the career of Brian Ching I have trouble narrowing down to just a single memory. The one thing he has proven is the club, and the sport, are not just a passing fad. They came into this city, worked their tails off, and in turn won over the skeptics one by one. Coincidentally, that is exactly one thing I fondly remember about Brian.
Brian Ching, The Player
When the club migrated from San Jose to Houston, I was honestly pretty ecstatic. I followed Major League Soccer minimally prior to the move, and was excited to finally have an opportunity to follow one who would play just a few minutes from where I live. I had no clue at the time just how much I would fall in love with the team, but that is another story for another day.
The first match I attended was in 2006 in the playoffs. I couldn't tell you what round or what team we played, but I know my friend, Ted, got us tickets. They were lower level, row maybe 8 or 9. Close enough to see well and take it all in.
I don't remember what minute it was or what the score was at the time, though I'd say it was roughly the 80th minute and the score was level. The match had been relatively sluggish, with both teams finding a couple of chances, but nothing impressive. I can remember yelling at the ref for some call I felt was atrocious, but then again I do that even when it isn't.
The ball was pushed forward on a counter attack and I vaguely remember the ball finding Brad Davis out wide. Oh, and those football lines were ugly even then, but I digress. I remember guffawing at how we would most likely blow this gifted chance, but then up into the air the ball soared. On the other end, the legend's head connected and the ball careened into the net.
I have been to many, many sporting events in my life, but there is nothing like that moment, except maybe when Clint Dempsey scored a goal versus Mexico at Reliant Center. I remember randomly high-fiving complete strangers, and hugging Ted in sheer jubilation. I was sold, hook line and sinker.
Why that memory stands out most about Brian Ching as a player is because I remember how hard he fought up until that goal. There were no frustrated moments where he turned to his delivery guys and yelled or threw up his arms in disgust, even though the service until then had not been all that great. What he did instead was push harder, pull back deeper on defense, and just frankly never gave up.
For Brian Ching the player, the only thing you really need to know is he never gave up. Not once.
Brian Ching, the Player-Coach
The second memory which comes to mind is more reflective of how he handled himself the entirety of this past season. After everything that had happened, which saw him end up in Montreal for a short stint, and then a triumphant return just a mere month or three later, he agreed in the offseason to restructure his contract.
He came into the season knowing it was his last, and also accepting a role with the club as a true player-coach. For the first portion of the season, he played almost exclusively as a sub in league matches. His poor knees just had nothing left, but my goodness did he push himself.
Where his impact was most felt, however, was on the bench with the young players. I remember watching him before a match interacting with guys like Will Bruin and Warren Creavalle. He took the time to work with them during drills, and I watched him giving pointers and directing them a little bit here and there.
Ahh yes, the beloved Dominic Kinnear had shown through the equally beloved Brian Ching. While he may never go into coaching like Barrett or Waibel, he certainly showed me he could handle such a task.
To take the time in the twilight of one's career to help push your effective replacement to be better? Yeah, that's Brian Ching and what he meant to the club as a Player-Coach.
Brian Ching, the Houston Legend
Finally, if there is one thing about Brian Ching I feel obligated to share, it is his heart for this community. When the club migrated to Houston, Brian Ching adopted the city as his own. And we are truly blessed/lucky to have such an incredible ambassador of soccer, the Dynamo, but most importantly, the city of Houston.
It was the home leg of the New York Red Bulls playoff series. I typically get to the stadium on weeknight matches about an hour or so prior to kickoff, and eat dinner at the stadium. This particular evening I came straight from work, grabbed a pizza and a Fanta Orange soda. I sat in my seat and ate contentedly.
As I finished my pizza, I saw a few kids with their families heading down to the LED signs which act as a field barrier. Tyler Deric was out doing his usual warm-up, and Tally had come out and started his warm-up, too. Then Brian Ching came onto the field.
He received a warm welcome from the few scattered fans, but what he did will forever be etched into my mind. He went over to the kids and families, whom I presume were there as part of his charity. In his hands were a couple of gift bags with various memorabilia (and soccer balls). He signed each and every one, plus extra stuff as well, and then gave each kid a hug and took pictures with the families.
In all, he was there for a good fifteen to twenty minutes, but it stuck out to me how he took the time before a pivotal match against an opponent who just a week or two prior had throttled the club at home. This is just one example of many, but this is Brian Ching's heart, and it belongs in and to the city of Houston.
We asked for others to share through FanPosts, and I am pleased at those who did. We'll leave the stream up for the offseason so others can share their fanposts as well.
Thank you, Brian.