The Brian Ching Testimonial Match got an unexpected visitor, as Craig Waibel pulled a fan out of the stands and fitted him up for a minute-long cameo on the field.
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Leading up to the Brian Ching Testimonial Match, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. MLS has obviously never done a testimonial for a player before, and I was only vaguely familiar with the concept. When I saw that Landon Donovan was listed as a goalkeeper, I couldn't decide if it was a joke or if we were in for an incredibly fun night. Fortunately, it was very much the latter; in a night full of highlights and awesome moments, seeing arguably the best player to ever wear the U.S. shirt playing in goal for 70 minutes was high on the list.
The lineup announcements prior to the match brought back a lot of great Dynamo memories. Seeing guys like Pat Onstad, Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Mullan, Craig Waibel, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Paul Dalglish and more all on the pitch at BBVA Compass Stadium playing together and wearing orange again was special. I don't think the match itself could have gone any better. Eddie Robinson played like he hadn't touched a soccer ball in years. Donovan made a couple of early saves and looked like he couldn't be having more fun with it.
Craig Waibel came up into the stands after being subbed out and sat a row over from me and just hung out and talked to the fans in typical Craig Waibel fashion. Even better, Waibs—as Stuart Holden listed him on his lineup—found a fan who looked like him, gave him his cleats and jersey and next thing you know there's a Craig Waibel look-a-like on the pitch and getting a cross in. Seeing Coach Kinnear and John Spencer out there playing was hilarious, and Dom actually wasn't half bad!
And then there's Brian Ching. I'll never, ever forget his first game in Houston and the four goal performance in the win over Colorado that instantly won over the hearts of this city. The huge, clutch goals—in both regular season and playoffs—are too many to try and list. He embodied everything that the Houston Dynamo represent for all eight years he has been here, both on and off the pitch. It was only fitting that he found the net five times during his testimonial. The last minute substitution and seeing Brian come off for the last time—and perhaps more importantly seeing the love and appreciation from every player out there—was also something that I will never forget.
I kept my emotions in check through the match and the final sub, but when Brian took the mic at the end, there must have been a bunch of dust that found its way into the stadium. You could hear how difficult this was for him, how much he truly loves the city of Houston and the Dynamo organization, and you got a glimpse into the kind of man Brian is when he choked up and struggled to find words to thank his mom for everything.
It was a first-class event all around, and I can't think of a better way to see the career of a true Houston legend come to a close. The Dynamo should be extremely proud of what they put together, and seeing the caliber of players that made it a point to take part speaks volumes to the respect that Brian has earned throughout his career. I'll admit—it's going to be a little weird to have a Dynamo squad without Brian Ching, but I expect that we'll still see plenty of him around the organization. He loves the club and the city far too much to not stay very involved, and hopefully last night reminded him how much the love is mutual.
Jason Zimmermann has been a Dynamo fan and season ticket holder since 2006. If you'd like to share your thoughts and memories from Friday's testimonial and Ching's career, send them to ChingTestimonial@gmail.com and it could be featured on HoustonDynamo.com.
MLS put together this great video recapping Brian Ching's career and legacy in the city of Houston. What does Ching mean to you? Let us know in the comments!
Our four part series with Brian Ching comes to an end, with the Dynamo legend reflecting on his decision to retire and his upcoming Testimonial Match.
The Houston Chronicle announced their list of the most interesting people in the Houston area, and Brian Ching was named as one of the 43 individuals in the lineup.
Here's what the Chronicle had to say about Ching:
Ching will soon retire from the Houston Dynamo. He is the first Hawaiian US men’s national team soccer player. Although he is a Houston import, Ching has become the face of the franchise, and indeed soccer in Houston, and has completely adopted his new hometown.
Dynamo Academy midfielder Christian Lucatero has been named to Development Academy select roster for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
Four select teams were named for the event: two for the U-15/16 age group and two for U-17/18. Lucatero will play for the U-17/18 Blue Select Team. The two teams in each age group will face off on Dec. 12 at the Premier Sports Campus. U-15/16s kick off at 5 p.m. CT, with the U-17/18s following at 7 p.m. CT. Game updates will be provided on the Academy/YNT Twitter account @ussoccer_ynt.
Lucatero was recently voted Dynamo Academy Player of the Year at the 2013 Dynamo Celebration. He has been involved in several U.S. Youth National Team training camps, most recently in September. The Pasadena native is one of six players on the U-17/18 select teams who participated in the September camp. The elite Academy players for all four rosters were selected by U.S. Soccer technical advisors, who will also be coaching the teams.
The U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase will bring every U-16 and U-18 team in the Development Academy to Florida from Dec. 11-15 for a round of games against teams outside their normal conference. The Dynamo U-18s will face a trio of 2013 Finals Week teams in the Seattle Sounders, Shattuck-St. Mary's Soccer Academy and the Vancouver Whitecaps. The U-16s will take on the New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and De Anza Force.
Continuing with our 1-on-1 interview with Brian Ching, Sebastian Salazar asks for some of Ching's favorite memories with the U.S. men's national team. Ching goes through his thoughts on being the first Hawaiian to play for the national team, the best atmosphere to play in and more.