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. 1: Ching's equalizing goal at MLS Cup 2006 and winning penalty kick start a tradition of excellence.
At his retirement party on Thursday night, Brian Ching revealed that he wants his legacy as a soccer player to be as “the ultimate team player.” So it should not come as any surprise that his favorite moment came on the day of the most significant team accomplishment in the Dynamo’s history.
The Dynamo’s inaugural season began in perfect fashion with Ching’s four-goal performance, and it ended with a dream-like state at MLS Cup in Frisco, Texas in the early evening of November 12, 2006.
“We basisically took over [Pizza Hut Park] and made our own stadium,” Ching told HoustonDynamo.com. “With the sky being orange, everything just seemed to be destined.”
The Dynamo were up against the New England Revolution, with the likes of Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey, Steve Ralston and Matt Reis looking for a title after finishing 2005 as runner-ups to the LA Galaxy. The match went back and forth during regulation, but the original 90 minutes ended scoreless, prompting 30 minutes of extra time.
The contest remained deadlocked through the first period of extra time, until Twellman broke through in the 113th minute firing a left-footed shot past Pat Onstad. The New England lead wouldn’t last for long, however.
“When they scored that goal, the wind kind of goes out of the sails for a second, but we had a team that was never going to give up,” said Ching. “We knew we still had an opportunity and we were fortunate enough that we capitalized on that opportunity a minute later.
“We get the ball wide [on the ensuing kick off], Brian Mullan beats a guy, his cross gets a little bit deflected, lands right to me in the box and I score it.”
Ching’s glancing header into the far corner knotted the match back up to send the final into a penalty kick shootout.
“That goal is the goal of my career, I think,” Ching said. “Just in the sense of the importance of it, what it brought to our organization.”
Into penalties, the match came down to the final round kickers. Ching buried his penalty, then watched as Onstad came up with “his biggest save in his career” to seal the victory.
“I just remember sprinting to jump on the pile and getting stuck at the bottom of the pile and not being able to breathe for little bit,” Ching recalled. “ But when you get up off that pile, you’re looking around: the sky’s orange, the stands are orange, people are throwing confetti and jumping up and down, guys are running over and celebrating with the fans. It’s just amazing.
“I still have images burned into my brain from that day and from that moment and hopefully they stay in there forever.”
His game-tying goal and winning penalty kick earned Ching the MLS Cup MVP award, but the true joy for the forward came upon receiving the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy, and what that victory would portend for the future of the franchise.
“It really started a tradition and set the precedent for our organization for what we expect every year,” he said. “I think it really established our organization as one of the top sports franchises in Houston and in the league.”