HOUSTON – Some MLS players will always be associated with one certain club. Two such players are Eddie Robinson and Brian Ching, who have both been synonymous with the Houston Dynamo’s brief yet successful history.
Both players came to Houston with the club in 2006 and were keystones as the Dynamo won successive MLS Cups in their first two seasons of existence. Their success and relationship with the organization make it understandable that, when the club kicked off preseason on Monday without the pair, it was a bit surreal.
“This would be my eighth year with [Brian] and also not seeing Eddie's face was weird,” said Brad Davis, who took part in the fitness and running portions of training Monday. “Not having those two faces out here is a bit different.”
With the pair moving on – Ching in a highly publicized move to the Montreal Impact and Robinson into a role in the Dynamo front office and Academy - it will take some time for Houston's players and staff to get used to the new-look team.
But the club’s mindset about the issue is clear: they have to move on with the players currently on the roster.
The first order of business is picking up where the pair left off, both on and off the field. Ching and Robinson were two of the established leaders on the club – when either spoke, their teammates listened. Without them in the mix, there are roles to fill in the leadership department.
“Brad Davis has stepped up the last few years and we have Bobby Boswell and a few others so we have leaders on this team,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. "We’re not hurting for leadership."
While there is no shortage of players to take up leadership roles, there is a big hole left on the field with Ching no longer in the mix. Houston have counted on Ching to produce goals in big situations and more often than not the Dynamo legend came through.
With him now wearing Impact blue, his old team will be looking for a player to step up and be that go-to forward in the clutch.
“That’s the nature of this sport,” said Davis, who is now the last original Dynamo left on the roster. “Chingy’s not with this club and we have to focus on who’s here and the guys we have. The guys that play up top know this is an opportunity, and someone needs to grab it by the horns and take advantage.”
With opportunities and roles opening up, the Dynamo spoke like a team ready to push forward.
“It feels odd,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “Two years ago it felt odd without Ricardo Clark and Stu Holden out here and it was the same without Brian Mullan and Dwayne [De Rosario]. There’s been guys who’ve been here a while and were influential that have left and it’s weird. But then once the ball gets going it’s OK.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.