Injuries have a tendency to bring players down. But Brian Ching’s determined not to be one of them. Not this year.
The Houston Dynamo captain overcame several injuries early in 2011 to get back and help his team make a run to the playoffs. Finally in good health and ready to take part in Sunday’s MLS Cup final against the LA Galaxy, Ching has provided the type of example that his young Dynamo teammates can rally around.
“He did his Achilles’ [heel] and hamstring and different things over the years, but he makes sure he’s ready on the day of the game,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said during a league conference call Monday. “His determination was impressive, and then when he got back on the field, he didn’t miss much.”
Ching was one of four Dynamo players to notch five goals this season, as the club became an “offense by committee” endeavor. But the veteran’s playoff contributions have stood out on both sides of the ball. Ching has notched a goal and assist in the Dynamo’s three playoff wins and is routinely seen tracking opposing players deep into Houston territory, as well as doing his customary work in helping to defend set pieces.
Now the stalwart has a chance to do something he has not done in his MLS career: hoist an MLS Cup as Houston’s captain. Ching is one of only two starters from the Eastern Conference championship game – Brad Davis is the other - that has played in an MLS Cup final, and the Dynamo are looking to lean on his experience and leadership Sunday against the Galaxy.
“His leadership as a captain in the big games has shown up on both sides of the ball,” Kinnear said. “He’s not just a good player going forward, but also as the first line of defense. He’s one of the best players in the league.”
Cameron finds a home
Another player that has played a big role in the Dynamo’s push to the MLS Cup is Geoff Cameron. An impact sub as a midfielder in 2008, the fourth-year pro made the 2009 MLS Best XI in central defense but continued to play midfield in non-MLS games, returning to midfield in league play for the last year and a half when healthy. Kinnear moved Cameron back to center back on Sept. 14, and the club has not lost since. The Dynamo have given up just six goals in those nine games.
“I think seeing where the team is and where he’s playing and the results, it’s safe to say he’s found a home at center back,” Kinnear said.
After filling in for the losses of central midfielders Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark in 2010, the additions of Luiz Camargo and Adam Moffat this midseason finally freed Cameron up to move to the defense. He’s picked up where he left off in 2009, and though he likely won’t make the league’s Best XI, he has been arguably MLS’ most influential player over the past two months.
“Geoff is getting settled in at center back, and him and Bobby [Boswell] have formed a good partnership,” Kinnear said. “He looks very comfortable back there, and given more time there, he’ll just get better.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.