Over the next week, HoustonDynamo.com will be counting down the top 5 moments from the 2010 season. Check back each morning to see the latest addition to the countdown. The No. 1 moment will be revealed Saturday morning, prior to the Dynamo's season finale against Seattle. What are your top 5 moments? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
No. 1: Ching's hat trick cools Fire
Over the past five seasons, Brian Ching has proven himself as a franchise player. No matter where or when, Ching has come through in the clutch, scoring that goal when the team was most in need. That persistence and determination shone through on a warm night in August, with the Dynamo in desperate need of a victory.
A raucous crowd welcomed the Chicago Fire to Robertson Stadium on August 21, with the Dynamo on the cusp of falling out of the playoff race. Much to the delight of the fans, Brian Ching opened the scoring for the Dynamo in the 31st minute, when he cleaned up a dropped ball by goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Little did the fans know that goal was only the beginning.
With the Dynamo leading 2-1, Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell volleyed a Richard Mulrooney corner kick off the cross bar. As the ball came out to the six-yard box, Ching moved himself into position and pulled off a stunning bicycle kick goal that brought the fans to their feet. After the Fire came back with two goals to even the match, Ching's will won over once again. In the 85th minute, Mulrooney sent another corner kick in to the box, and this time Ching was on the receiving end. His header inside the far post electrified the crowd and sealed the Dynamo's first MLS win since May 22.
“Brian Ching was fantastic tonight; thank God for Brian Ching,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said after the match. “He has always been a quiet leader. He leads by example. His bicycle kick stands out, but the fourth goal was the most important — and for me, that's the way he scores the majority of goals, so for him to do it with teams keying on him shows what a presence he is in the box for us.”
Although there were many moments of 2010 that Dynamo fans will soon forget, Brian Ching's hat trick performance was one that will stick forever, as he cemented his legacy as a true leader and one of the great players in MLS.
No. 2: Deric posts shutout in MLS debut
Entering the 2010 season, Tyler Deric was best known for becoming the first home-grown player signed to the Dynamo first team. The Klein High School graduate, who joined the Dynamo Academy as a high school senior, had always shown a knack for stopping shots. Deric played one season at the University of North Carolina, posting a 0.94 goals against average and earning Atlantic Coast Conference all-freshman team honors. Training with the Academy and the first team back in Houston, Deric continued to improve and earned himself a first team contract.
With Pat Onstad and Tally Hall ahead of him on the depth chart, there was little reason to think that Deric would see action in a regular season game this season. Deric did play the second half of a friendly against the Laredo Heat on June 10 and kept a clean sheet during his 45 minutes of action.
In the second half of the season, however, Hall picked up an ankle injury, and Deric moved his way up the depth chart. With the Dynamo out of the playoff race, Kinnear felt it time to give his young goalkeeper the opportunity he had been waiting for.
“We don’t pick guys for charity,” Kinnear said. “We pick them if we think they can help us. I think he’s improved a lot over the last 12 months, and I think the way Pat [Onstad], Tally [Hall], and Tim [Hanley] treat him shows.”
On October 16, Kinnear handed Deric the keys to the net, and Dynamo fans were treated to a possible glimpse of the future. Although never fully tested throughout the match, Deric made three saves and exuded a calmness rarely seen in a 22-year old. After Chris Wondolowski's last second strike sailed over the cross bar, the final whistle blew and the players on the field ran to Deric to join in this special occasion. Aside from posting the team's first shutout since July 10, he became the first home-grown goalkeeper in MLS history to post a shutout in his debut.
“It’s a great achievement to get that first game under your belt,” Deric said. “It’s a good boost of confidence and motivation with the offseason coming up to try and get more prepared for next year, knowing that I had a game.”
No. 3: Mullan's header spoils Henry debut
2010 was a landmark season in Major League Soccer. Nine new Designated Players joined the league, marking the largest influx of international talent in the league's history. Although those players came from across the globe with varying degrees of fame, none brought bigger name recognition than French superstar Thierry Henry.
After months of speculation, Henry signed a contract with the New York Red Bulls and was set to make his MLS debut at Robertson Stadium on July 31. In the most anticipated debut since David Beckham, more than 24,000 fans packed Robertson Stadium to witness the Frenchman's first game.
Although Henry assisted on New York's first goal of the game, Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall did a tremendous job stopping Henry on one opportunity and forcing him to shoot wide on a separate breakaway. In the 58th minute, Henry found Juan Pablo Angel streaking through the Dynamo defense for his second goal of the game and a 2-1 New York lead. To make matters worse, Houston played the entire second half down a man after Lovel Palmer was ejected for a tackle just before hafltime.
In the 77th minute, head coach Dominic Kinnear inserted Brian Mullan into the game, and the team received an immediate spark. The Dynamo immediately became more dangerous due to Mullan's energy alongside an exhausted but game Brian Ching. With only seconds to go in regulation, Andrew Hainault played a long ball into the box. The 5-foot-7 Mullan, sneaking in behind the Red Bulls defense, leapt to his left to head the ball past a diving Bouna Coundoul for one of the most dramatic goals in team history. Given the circumstances, it was a miraculous result, and an unforgettable finish to one of the busiest months in Houston soccer history.
No. 4: Dynamo fans show support for injured star
It has been an up and down season for the Dynamo, but through all the trials and tribulations, Houston fans have always been there to support the team. That loyalty was never more prevalent than on May 1, when the Dynamo took on the Kansas City Wizards at Robertson Stadium.
Only seven days earlier, Dynamo midfielder Geoff Cameron had injured himself on the wet grass at Toyota Park against the Chicago Fire. The initial prognosis was that Cameron would miss the rest of the season with a torn PCL, but after surgery, doctors believed Cameron could return before the end of the season. Against Kansas City, fans took the opportunity to show their support for Cameron through a tribute in the 20th minute. Fans around the stadium held up placards with the number 20 on them, in honor of the jersey number that Cameron wears.
"I was sitting at home and watching it on TV with my father, watching the guys play a great game," Cameron told the Houston Chronicle. "It was truly inspiring, especially to see the support that the fans have for me. It was definitely inspirational and touching, you could say. Seeing the fans do that was pretty cool."
With the support of the organization and Dynamo fans across the globe, Cameron recovered from his knee injury in less than four months and returned for the SuperLiga match against Morelia on August 5, then returning to the starting lineup for the final three months of the season.
No. 5: Cruz finds the net in first professional start
After two standout years at UNLV, the Houston Dynamo drafted Danny Cruz in the 3rd round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. In his first season of professional soccer, the U.S. youth international did not make much of an impact for the Dynamo, playing only 107 MLS minutes in six substitute appearances.
After an offseason Generation adidas trip to South Africa, Cruz came into 2010 training camp with a more mature game and showed himself capable of contributing. On May 22, head coach Dominic Kinnear rewarded Cruz with his first professional start. It took just nine minutes for Cruz to repay the honor with a beautiful right-footed strike off the post to beat D.C. United goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Cruz immediately ran to the Dynamo bench, waving his arms, to celebrate the goal with his teammates.
“The goal was special for me, and hopefully for the guys,” said Cruz after the match. “It was important that I celebrated with everyone, because I truly felt like everyone contributed to me getting to where I am today. It was a buildup of a lot of commitment from all the guys and the substitutes and the coaching staff, and I wanted everybody to be a part of it.”
The goal - which Cruz followed up with an assist in the same game - cemented his place in the starting lineup for much of the summer and served notice to the league that he is one of the top young players in MLS.