Top 10 Ching Moments: Brian Ching returns to MLS with style

After a year out of MLS, Ching shows what's to come in his Quakes debut

In anticipation of Brian Ching’s retirement at the conclusion of the 2013 season, HoustonDynamo.com will count down the Top 10 Brian Ching Moments each week leading up to the Brian Ching Testimonial Match, presented by BBVA Compass. No. 8: Ching returns to MLS in style.

Less than a minute into his first start with the San Jose Earthquakes on April 12, 2003, Brian Ching let MLS know what was to come over the next eleven seasons—goals.

Eighty more goals, to be exact, making him the 11th highest goal scorer in league history. Of course, while this marked the beginning of the most remembered part of Ching’s career, it actually began in 2001 when he was drafted by the LA Galaxy in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft.

Ching did score a goal that year with LA, but only made eight appearances for the MLS side and was loaned out to the Seattle Sounders of the A-League (later USL-1). The Galaxy released Ching at the end of the year, and Seattle signed him for the 2002 season.

“It was a really rough year at first with LA, but it was a year I learned a lot about my confidence and a lot about what putting in hard work will do,” Ching told HoustonDynamo.com about the experience. “I didn’t start off the year well with LA, but I put my head down and worked hard, and by the end of the year I was confident and playing well.”

That confidence and hard work transferred to his year out of MLS, where he scored 16 times for the Sounders en route to being named to the A-League All-League team. There, Ching caught the eyes of San Jose Earthquakes coaches Frank Yallop and Dominic Kinnear when the Quakes and Sounders met for a U.S. Open Cup match.

The rest, they say, is history: San Jose selected Ching in the 2003 Supplemental Draft, and Ching delivered right from the start.

In the first minute of the 2003 season opener against the Colorado Rapids, Landon Donovan picked up a loose ball near midfield and dished it wide to Brian Mullan on the right flank. Mullan picked up his head and found Ching hanging on the shoulder of the last Colorado defender and hit a perfect ball to release Ching on goal. With his first touch, the Hawaiian placed a left-footed shot past Rapids ‘keeper Scott Garlick and began a legacy.

“For a striker to come back in the league with a new team and score a goal that quickly takes a lot of pressure off you,” Ching said. “You don’t have to worry about that first one and think when it’s going to come.

“To get it right away was a huge confidence to me and funnily enough a sign of things to come. That’s what I’ll remember most about that moment.”

For a forward who was regularly on the receiving end of great service, it’s no surprise that Ching is quick to honor those that set him up for success, including in that first game back.

“Those guys have been making it easy for me and that’s what it’s been about my entire career,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been successful, having guys around me like Brian Mullan, Landon [Donovan], Brad [Davis], Dwayne [De Rosario], Stuart [Holden] and a ton of other people that have given me the ball.”

Surely if you asked those players delivering the service, they would be just as grateful to have someone as great as Brian Ching at the end of their pass.