Houston Dynamo forward Brian Ching admits that he is savoring every bit of this MLS Cup run moreso than any time in his 10-year MLS career.
That is partially because the end may be near for him.
The 33-year-old forward revealed after Friday's training session that next season, one in which the Dynamo will open a new soccer stadium, could very well be his last as a professional soccer player.
“At this point, I want to play in a new stadium,” Ching told the media at The Home Depot Center. “I want to play in Houston for another year, and that’s as far as I’m looking right now. Maybe one more year. Maybe if I have a great year next year, maybe another year. But at this point, probably one more year.”
If this comes as a shock to anyone – Ching indicated his current MLS contract ran through 2013 – the striker is already engaged in conversations with Dynamo brass about his future after soccer.
“I’ve had talks with our organization, and I want to help us continue to keep our organization as one of the best in MLS," he said. "I think it’d be something that I’d like to do is stay with the club in some form or capacity."
Although the Dynamo are glad to have a healthier Ching back for their recent run of matches, which has seen them go 7-0-2 in their last nine games, including the playoffs, the Hawaii native indicated that he has struggled to keep himself fit this season. He started less than half of his club’s regular season games in 2011.
“Especially this year, because you get a little bit healthy and then you get hurt again,” Ching explained. “The older you get, the harder it gets to run around, especially in the Houston heat. You can’t work as hard as you want sometimes because of the weather. But it took a while. I had ups and downs. I think I’m pretty fit now.”
“I think if you look at Brian, for us, he’s been a scorer of important goals,” manager Dominic Kinnear said. “On the field, when he’s playing, he’s a threat, and he always seems to pop up at the big moments, and hopefully he continues to do that.”
Fit or not, Ching was not about to miss out on an MLS Cup final and a chance to stick it to the LA Galaxy this weekend: “I definitely feel that I still have a rivalry with those guys,” he says.
Released by the Galaxy after the 2001 season, Ching later partook in epic California derby matches when he signed with San Jose, part of a rivalry that developed into one of the most heated in the league. That backdrop, his new leadership role, and the prospect of retirement all make Sunday’s final that much more special for the Dynamo captain.
“It’s a proud moment for me, the organization, and the coaching staff to see some of these guys grow up,” Ching said earlier this week from Houston. “From my standpoint, this would probably be my greatest achievement if we end up taking home the cup.”