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Comeback Player of the Year goes to Ching

San Jose Earthquakes forward Brian Ching was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year at the MLS Cup Media Luncheon on Friday in Los Angeles. He returned to tie for the MLS lead in goals this season following a ruptured Achilles tendon in August 2003 which kept him out the second half of the season.

Ching tied with Dallas forward Eddie Johnson for the league lead in goals this season with 12, linking up with Earthquakes and national team strike partner Landon Donovan on an array of beautiful tallies. He also finished third in the Budweiser Scoring Leaders race with 28 points. That total led the Quakes and trailed only MetroStars playmaker Amado Guevara and New England's Pat Noonan in MLS.

In addition to the 25-year-old's breakthrough with his club, Ching has made tremendous strides on the international level as well. picking an excellent time to tally his first international goal.

In the 89th minute against Jamaica at Kingston, in the stadium affectionately known to the locals as "The Office," Ching slammed home a Donovan cross to garner the USA an important away point. Partly due to that point won -- and Jamaica losing two almost certain points -- the United States has already booked its ticket for the next round of World Cup qualifying.

Past Award Winners
2003 Chris Armas (CHI)
2002 Chris Klein (K.C.)
2001 Troy Dayak (S.J.)
2000 Tony Meola (K.C.)

Back home in MLS Ching continued to shine in almost every offensive category. He used his height to his advantage and constantly created havoc for opposing defenders, which had no way to stop his dominance in the air. Ching finished third in the league in points per game with 1.12 and also tallied three game-winning goals for the Quakes.

One of the most thrilling games for Ching came on July 24 when he almost single-handedly brought the Quakes back against the New England Revolution in second-half stoppage time. Following a goal by Landon Donovan, who had a beautiful back-heeled pass from Ching to run on to, "Ching-gol" slid in to poke home a Dwayne De Rosario cross and earn the Quakes a thrilling 2-2 draw right before the death.

The native of Hawaii is the only player from the island state currently playing in MLS. He has made his home state proud during the 2004 season with numerous accolades and awards heaped upon him.

Ching edged out two other impressive MLS stars for the award. Jaime Moreno, the D.C. United playmaker who has fueled his team's run to MLS Cup 2004 finished second in the voting and Ronnie O'Brien, who came back this season from a broken leg to stand out as the premier force for Dallas, finished third in voting.

The Comeback Player of the Year award honors a player who has overcome injury or tremendous adversity to experience measurable success during the following season. Ching was selected as the winner in voting by MLS coaches, general managers, players and members of the Professional Soccer Reporters Association.

Danny Polinsky is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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