10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Every day through year's end, the Star-Bulletin will recognize 10 who changed Hawaii this year. Some were controversial, others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference.
Isle player scored 4 more soccer 'firsts'
Brian Ching added four more "firsts" to his resume in 2006.
He has been breaking ground for Hawaii soccer ever since he became the first player from the 50th State to be drafted by Major League Soccer in 2001.
This year the Kamehameha graduate was the first Hawaii player to make the United States men's national team that participated in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
A striker for the Houston Dynamo, Ching culminated the season by being named the most valuable player in the MLS championship match -- a first for Hawaii -- against the New England Revolution.
"I thought a lot of guys on our team played well, as did a lot of guys on their team. It was a surprise," Ching said.
ASSOCIATED PRESS / AUGUST 2006
The Houston Dynamo's Brian Ching, left, controls the ball as the Los Angeles Galaxy's Troy Roberts, right, lunges for it in a Major League Soccer game. CLICK FOR LARGE
In the championship match, he scored the goal that tied the score at 1-1 in the 114th minute, just after New England had scored.
"The ball went wide to Brian Mullen on the kickoff. He beat one man and crossed it. The ball deflected a little off a defender, right into my path," said Ching, who beat the goalkeeper with a head shot inside the left post from 9 yards away.
In the penalty kick shootout, Ching converted the winning penalty kick with a shot to the right side off his right foot.
Ching received another honor at the end of the season when he won the Sierra Mist Goal of the Year Award for a bicycle kick he executed in the 88th minute in a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on Sept. 30. The award is decided by an online vote of fans.
"I hadn't scored in two months before that goal. My mom (Stephanie Whalen) came up for the game and brought some good luck," Ching said.
He also scored the first regular-season goal for the Dynamo against the Colorado Rapids, and finished the match with four scores.
"It has been a good year all the way around. The only low was tearing my meniscus in my right knee in the Chelsea (vs. MLS All Stars) exhibition match in Chicago on Aug. 5."
Ching had arthroscopic surgery and missed three weeks, but still tied for the Dynamo scoring lead with 11 goals. He added three more goals in the playoffs.
"You have to make every year better than the last one," said Ching, who was disappointed he did not play in any of the three U.S. World Cup matches. U.S. coach Bruce Arena told Ching afterward he had made a mistake not playing the 6-foot-1 striker.
"That stung a bit, but having said that, it was an amazing experience. It gives me something to shoot for in four years," Ching said.
He has two years left on his MLS contract and reports Jan. 25 to start training for the 2007 season.