The Brian Ching era in Houston has officially come to an end, with the Dynamo legend officially announcing his retirement, effective at the end of the 2013 season, on Tuesday afternoon.
In February, Ching re-signed with the club as a player-coach, accepting that he would largely be used in a reserve role. But as the season wore on, his role on the field dwindled even further. He's played 232 minutes in total, but only 11 of those have come after the beginning of July, and he was left off the team sheet entirely in the Dynamo's most recent game, a 5-1 win over Chivas USA.
It was a decision that Ching understands. But it was his body and not his playing time that let him know that his time on the pitch has run its course.
“Mentally you’re there … but physically your body won’t let you do it,” he said on Tuesday. “I think the realization hit me a couple of weeks ago. I was so frustrated at times I wasn’t enjoying it. Now I’m getting back there.”
Now the Dynamo will say goodbye to the man who has been the face of the franchise since it landed in Houston in 2006. Ching leaves as the team's runaway all-time goals leader with 69, and has claimed two MLS Cup titles with the Dynamo (2006, 2007) in addition to his one with the San Jose Earthquakes.
To honor him, the Dynamo will put on a testimonial match – the first for an MLS player to date – on Dec. 13. That game will feature some two dozen current and former Dynamo players as well as some of Ching's former teammates with the US national team.
It’s a chance for the World Cup veteran to have one last go-around with his friends before hanging up his boots.
“What I’m happy about is getting a chance to play with my friends for a final game,” Ching said. “That’ what soccer’s been about for me.”
Before then, Ching has some business to tend to. Rejuvenated by making a decision that’s weighed on his mind, the Dynamo forward is committed to showing the same type of leadership that he admitted left him earlier this season and turning that into one last MLS Cup win.
Once he calls time on his playing career for good, though, Ching will commit his future to the Dynamo. His specific role with the team is yet to be determined, but whatever it may be, the Hawaii native will be forever linked to the Dynamo.
“From a coaching point of view, he’s meant more than people can imagine,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s been great in the locker room, he’s been great on the field and I know he’s been great in the community.
"He’s been a great teammate, a great player, a great captain and I’ve had a great [relationship] with him and I appreciate everything he’s done for our team since we’ve stepped foot in Houston.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.