Major League Soccer announced on Friday that MLS Cup finalist Brian Ching of Houston Dynamo is the winner of the 2006 Sierra Mist Goal of the Year Award. The striker captured the hardware with a spectacular bicycle kick on Sept. 30 that gave Houston a 1-0 win over 2006 Supporters' Shield winners D.C. United. Voting for the award was conducted on the league's official web site, MLSnet.com.
Ching beat out strong competition from Real Salt Lake's Carey Talley, his own teammate Dwayne De Rosario, FC Dallas striker Carlos Ruiz and D.C. defender Facundo Erpen. Ching received 31 percent of the votes in the final round to claim the prize.
"It's the one award I never thought I'd win at the beginning of the year, I'll tell you that much. I'm just thankful that Dwayne (De Rosario) let me have it this year," Ching said following Houston's training session at Pizza Hut Park on Friday morning. "He's pretty much had a strangle hold over it. It was a big goal at the time and a good win for us so I'm extremely proud of it. That's not something you'll normally see out of me."
The 86th-minute game-winner from Ching not only netted three points for Dynamo, but combined with RSL's 3-3 draw with the Kansas City Wizards that same night, it also clinched Houston a berth in the 2006 MLS Cup Playoffs. Over 20,000 fans at Robertson Stadium were on hand to see Ching's overhead kick beat Troy Perkins to put Houston in the postseason in its first year in the league.
"Brad (Davis) got the ball down on the wing and I know he crosses one of the best balls in the league so I just got in the box," Ching said. "Paul (Dalglish) says he saw me behind him so he just flicked it and it was just kind of an instinctive thing for me to do. I just kind of turned and hit it."
With the honor, Ching unseated De Rosario, who was seeking his third straight Goal of the Year win. The Canadian's Week 23 strike from the midfield line that caught Chicago Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton off his line finished just behind Talley with 23 percent of the total votes from the final round. De Rosario won the award in both 2004 and 2005 as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes, who relocated to Houston prior to the start of the 2006 season.
"I thought that was a great goal and if Dwayne won for that this year I wouldn't have been disappointed at all," Ching said.
Ching claimed to have not cast a single vote for himself, but he admitted to being the beneficiary of at least one very zealous supporter.
"I think my mom voted for me enough times that I didn't have to vote for myself," he said.
Ruiz came in fourth place in the final round for his 45-yard lob over New England's Matt Reis, while Erpen's long-range bomb against the New York Red Bulls on in Week 4 rounded out the finalists. Goal of the Year voting began on Oct. 18 with a total of 34 nominees. Fans were allowed to vote up to 10 times a day, with the pool being narrowed to the top 10 on Oct. 25 and the five finalists on Nov. 1.
Ching will look to help Dynamo capture an even more important piece of hardware of Sunday when they face the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup Final (3:30 p.m. ET; ABC). Perhaps he will even break out his bicycle for the occasion.
"If the exact same play happens, probably, but I don't think I'll be scoring any bicycles on Sunday," he said.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.