Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Ching making impression with scoring on U.S. team

By Ronald Blum
Associated Press

If Brian Ching keeps scoring a goal a game for the U.S. national team, in a few years his nickname could be "Hawai'i Five-O" — as in 50 international goals.

Brian Ching, left, was congratulated by Landon Donovan after scoring against Jamaica to forge a 1-1 tie.

Advertiser library photo

That pace isn't likely to happen — Eric Wynalda holds the American record of 34. But just two years after he was waived by the Los Angeles Galaxy and spent a summer playing minor league ball, Ching has become the Americans' key scorer in the semifinals of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. His 89th-minute goal on Aug. 18 gave the United States a 1-1 tie at Jamaica, and his fifth-minute goal Saturday sent the Americans on to a 2-0 victory over El Salvador.

"I don't want to get too big of a head. I still know who I am," said the 26-year-old forward, the first Hawaiian on the U.S. national team. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on taking care of my body and just scoring goals."

Such is the depth of the American talent pool that the Kamehameha Schools alum might not start today, when the United States plays at Panama in the third game of the six-game semifinal round. U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who fielded a young lineup at home Saturday, is likely to use more veterans for the road game at Panama City.

Ching didn't make his national team debut until May 2003 against Wales, and Saturday's game was his first start and fourth appearance. Playing for San Jose, he's tied for the Major League Soccer lead with 11 goals this season.

"We're been fortunate to see him for two years in San Jose, now he's making the most of it," said Landon Donovan, Ching's teammate on the Earthquakes and the national team. "He's just a classic good forward that you want to have on your team. He makes the right runs, he holds the ball, he's strong, he's a great finisher, he works hard defensively. He doesn't have many faults."

After scoring 34 goals at Gonzaga and playing for the Spokane (Wash.) Shadow of the United Soccer Leagues Premier League, Ching was drafted by the Galaxy in February 2001. He spent nearly the entire season as a sub, was cut the following February and played for the Seattle Sounders of the A-League in 2002, scoring 16 goals.

Signed by the Earthquakes, he scored against Colorado just 53 seconds into his first MLS game with his new team. He finished with six league goals, yet was so far down the pecking order he wasn't even included in the national team's 2004 media guide.

His play with San Jose caught the attention of Arena.

"He's demonstrated in the league that he's about the best goal scorer in MLS, he and (Carlos) Ruiz," Arena said.

When Ching returned home from Jamaica, he received about 20 telephone calls of congratulations. As he says, far more people follow the national team than the Earthquakes. The game in Kingston awakened him to what international soccer is like.

"The atmosphere there was different from the atmosphere I'm used to with MLS teams," he said. "The seating was almost full before the warmup. The speakers were going, chanting and yelling."

And in Kingston, a running track separated the U.S. bench from the stands. When the Americans play in Costa Rica and other Central American venues, the fans often are within object-throwing distance.

Ching's contract with MLS runs through the 2006 season. If he keeps scoring, European clubs will come courting. In soccer, goals get attention, and he keeps getting them.

"I want to make a name for myself here if I can. Then we'll weigh the options," Ching said. "I don't want to think that far ahead."