One player that puts a smile on the faces of fans, teammates and coaches when he’s on the field is Brian Ching.
Houston’s all-time leading scorer is working his way back from injury — plantar fasciitis in his left foot — to provide a lift to his club, which is currently working to break a seven-game winless streak. Ahead of what will likely be a physical match against surging Chivas USA on Saturday (7:30 p.m.), the veteran’s toughness and leadership could provide a much needed boost if he is deemed available for selection.
“He’s been out for a long period of time, but he always battles back, and you have to give him credit, because when he gets back, he’s always in good shape,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear after Tuesday’s reserve game. "But [Ching’s work ethic is] why he’s available, and it’s not because he wants to be back at training. He’s back for one reason, and that’s to be available for Saturday, and hopefully that’s the case.”
Ching returned to training Monday and has worked with the team throughout the week. The forward participated in a spirited workout Thursday morning and showed no signs of the foot injury that has sidelined him since May 4 against Colorado.
“He’s looked good in practice, and he’s very eager to get going,” Kinnear said. “In the finishing that we’ve done, he’s looked confident, and it’s good because he’s an important part of our team.”
Ching's return brought a renewed energy to Thursday's training session; he was one of the vocal leaders on the field, and with the team’s recent struggles, his message was clear.
“I think the team’s been bringing good energy for 90 minutes, but for us, it’s more about concentration for 90 minutes,” Ching said. “We need to get a little bit meaner on the field and be a harder team to play against. Practices like this are spirited, and it’s good because I think it helps get everyone focused and ready for the weekend.”
Despite feeling good on Thursday, neither Ching nor Kinnear could say for sure if the striker will be available for selection on Saturday against Chivas USA. Ching will be evaluated after Friday’s training session, and a decision will be made then regarding his availability for the weekend.
“We’ll see how I feel after tomorrow, but based on today, I feel good about being available this weekend,” Ching said.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow me on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.