Ching, U.S. confront Mexico


POSTED: Tuesday, February 10, 2009

CARSON, Calif. » When the United States begins the final round of World Cup qualifying, Haleiwa's Brian Ching will enter the field as one of the national team's leading scorers.



Brian Ching:

”;Does all the

little things,”;

according to

Landon Donovan


Ching emerged as a consistent threat for the U.S. in 2008 and hopes to extend his breakout performance tomorrow night against arch-rival Mexico.

“;These are the games you live for and want to make an impact in,”; Ching said. “;I've been telling people that I've been thinking about this game ever since it was scheduled.”;

Last year, Ching scored four times for the U.S. to finish tied for the team lead in goals. In five previous years with the national team, Ching converted just five goals.

Those four goals enabled Ching to move into a three-way tie for the most career goals scored during World Cup qualifying by an American: six.

Ching also achieved unparalleled personal success with the Houston Dynamo by scoring a career-high 13 goals and tying his personal best with five assists.

“;Whether you're scoring goals for the national team or your club team, I think they go hand in hand,”; said Ricardo Clark, Ching's teammate in Houston and with the national team. “;That's always going to give you confidence.”;

Ching attributes last year's success to increased playing time with the national team. He played seven games for the United States and made six starts, both career bests.

“;That helps me get comfortable and when I get comfortable, I don't put as much pressure on myself,”; Ching said. “;I play a little more freely.

“;I think I've improved on my passing, my running off the ball and just in more overall connection with the team, setting up players.”;

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward demonstrated those more refined aspects Jan. 24 in a 3-2 victory over Sweden.

While just outside the penalty area, Ching balanced a long ball from the back between two defenders with his right foot. Ching then shielded a defender from the ball, controlled it with his left foot and sent a well-timed pass to Sacha Kljestan for the goal that provided the winning margin.

Landon Donovan, the national team's all-time leading scorer, paid Ching perhaps the ultimate compliment.

“;When we play a hard game against a good team, I want him on the field with us,”; Donovan said. “;There are other players who may be more talented and flashy, but Chingy does all the little things that help your team win.”;

Some of those little things range beyond the obvious.

“;First and foremost, he brings an attitude of competitiveness,”; Clark said. “;A lot of other players pick up on that. He doesn't say too much, but by stepping up in big games, I think his actions on the field speak for themselves.”;

Ching learned his diligence from Chris Nied, his soccer coach at Kamehameha.

“;I really credit that coach with installing my work ethic,”; the forward said. “;He taught me how hard it was going to be for me to get where I wanted to go. I thank him a ton.”;

Ching enhanced his understanding of the game at Gonzaga, the only college to offer a scholarship. Under coach Einar Thorarinsson, Ching led the Bulldogs to two West Coast Conference championships, twice made the All-WCC first team and set Gonzaga's career record for assists (23).

“;Einar Thorarinsson really helped me channel that hard work into being a better player, a smarter player on the field,”; Ching said. “;I can't tell you how many times I was in his office just watching film.”;

Now, Ching prepares for North America's most intense soccer rivalry. He first experienced it in 2007 during the CONCACAF Gold Cup final and played a major—if indirect—role in nullifying Mexico's lead.

Mexico's Jonny Magallon tripped Ching in the penalty area, and Donovan converted the ensuing penalty kick to force a 1-1 tie as the Americans rallied to win the championship, 2-1.

“;That was one of the best games that I've ever been a part of,”; Ching said.

The rivalry also features trash-talk from both sides, Mexican stores providing voodoo dolls in replicas of U.S. uniforms and physical, unsportsmanlike incidents.

After Donovan scored last in a 2-0 victory in 2007, goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez tried to spike Eddie Johnson as Johnson ran toward Donovan to celebrate.

In a more well-known episode, Mexico's Rafael Marquez delivered a leaping head butt and a high kick to Cobi Jones during the Americans' 2-0 victory in the 2002 World Cup.

“;All the stuff that goes on in the past sticks with us,”; Ching said. “;They're not respecting us is a huge sticking point for us. It has always been a huge sticking point for us.”;

It also has motivated the national team to keep Mexico winless in the U.S. in nine matches since 1999.

“;Every time we play Mexico, we feel like we have a chip on our shoulder,”; Ching said. “;We have something to prove. All the trash-talk just stokes the fire. It builds the excitement. It gives you the drive to say, 'Hey, not in our country.'”;