In anticipation of Brian Ching’s retirement at the conclusion of the 2013 season, HoustonDynamo.com will count down the Top 10 Brian Ching Moments each week leading up to the Brian Ching Testimonial Match, presented by BBVA Compass. No. 6: Ching represents the U.S. at the 2006 World Cup.
Up to this point, each moment in our countdown of Brian Ching’s greatest moments has focused on his in-game contributions during his 12-year MLS career. This moment, though, doesn’t involve a highlight-reel goal or comeback victory. It’s the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Fritz-Walter-Stadion in Kaiserslautern, Germany, before the United States men’s national team faced Italy at the 2006 World Cup.
It’s a simple enough moment at first glance, but put yourself in those shoes. At the pinnacle of your sport, representing your country as the world watches. “I still feel it was one of the biggest achievements in my career, being on the field before the Italy game, listening to the national anthem and the fans in the stadium echoing,” said Ching.
Ching earned his first cap for the national team in 2003 and emerged as a key player 2004-05, playing in six World Cup qualifying matches. It was a rapid ascension for a player who had been out of the first division in 2002, and who didn’t even see himself as a professional soccer player as a kid.
“I was thinking that I’m just a small kid from Hawaii who wanted to be a surfer, and I’m standing at one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” he told HoustonDynamo.com. “It was my proudest moment as a soccer player.”
Instead of riding waves for a living, Ching became the first Hawaiian-born player to represent the United States on the soccer field, a distinction that seems innocuous enough but that carries plenty of weight with Ching.
“I notice it a lot when I go back to Hawaii and the kids look up to you. They see your accomplishments and they want to strive towards that because they know that it’s possible,” Ching said. “I think that goes a long with a lot of kids. I get the most out of inspiring hope for others.”
Ching didn’t see any playing time during that World Cup as the U.S. failed to advance out of the group stage, but took away the experience of a lifetime working alongside the likes of Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra and Jimmy Conrad (all of whom will participate Ching’s testimonial match) on the world’s biggest stage.
The Dynamo forward continued a run of good performances with the USMNT following the 2006 World Cup, participating in the 2007 and 2009 Gold Cups and becoming a regular during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, but was one of the final cuts to the squad for South Africa.
Regardless, the memory of standing tall with your teammates as the national anthem plays and hundreds of supporters sing along on one of the world’s biggest stages is one that cannot be replaced or forgotten.