As the crowd of 25,462 filed into Robertson Stadium in Houston to see the debut of Major League Soccer's newest club, some had no idea what to expect. Brian Ching made sure they saw a night they never would forget.
Ching scored four goals, the ninth time in MLS history a player had scored as many goals in a game and one shy of the league record, and Houston Dynamo rolled to a first-ever victory, 5-2 against the Colorado Rapids.
Ching had his hat trick before halftime, deflecting home a Wade Barrett effort with the slightest of touches in the 13th minute, then scoring nearly identical goals, heading home pinpoint crosses from Brian Mullan in the 36th and 44th minutes to give Dynamo a 3-1 lead at halftime.
The Hawaii native then finished off the match with another header, this time from a Dwayne De Rosario corner kick, in the 72nd minute, after Jovan Kirovski's free kick had cut the lead back to one early in the second half.
Ching led MLS is goalscoring two years ago, but injuries limited his output a year ago. He still has a chance to be a part of the U.S. team in the World Cup this summer -- something that will certainly be helped by a four-goal game -- but Ching's only focus Sunday was getting a victory in the Dynamo home debut.
"The biggest pressure I feel and the players feel is in the locker room," Ching said. "Our expectations are high. Do we expect to score five goals every weekend? No. But we do expect to win."
Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear was understandably thrilled with the win. But not necessarily for the reason one would expect.
"I know Brian scored four goals, but you have to look at the collective effort," said Kinnear. "Other people played a huge role, like (goalkeeper) Pat (Onstad) -- he made the big save at 3-2. And Kevin (Goldthwaite) and Wade (Barrett) on the left-hand side -- they handled the game very well."
Even though Ching's hat trick before the interval seemed to all but salt the game away, Kirovski's free kick in the 53rd minute made things a little more tense than they needed to be, said Onstad.
"It's almost like a physiological let down," Onstad said. "It's been two months since everyone's moved their families in. You're still feeling the effect of the move and then the game starts and your anxiety level is high. We rode the first half on adrenaline."
But then Ching struck again -- thanks in no small part to Dwayne De Rosario, who had a part in all four Ching goals and tied the MLS single-game record with his four assists -- and Houston had a new hero after just a single night.
Ignacio Salazar is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.