Major League Soccer made its debut in Houston in explosive fashion, as the hometown Dynamo recorded a record-setting first victory in club history. Brian Ching scored four goals to lead them to a 5-2 win against the Colorado Rapids at Robertson Stadium on Sunday night.
Ching became the seventh player in league history to score at least four goals in a game, the ninth time it had happened in a game. The last was Edson Buddle in 2004, and the four goals were one shy of the league record held by Clint Mathis, who was ironically wearing a Rapids uniform on Sunday night.
Dynamo playmaker Dwayne De Rosario tied the MLS record for assists in a game, recording assists on each of Ching's four goals. The feat had been performed twice previously in league history, last by Chris Henderson during the 1999 campaign.
In their Houston debut, the Dynamo offense attacked early and often. Ricardo Clark missed high from midfield with an early attempt, then Wade Barrett forced a fine save from Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
The chances served just to fire up the enthusiastic Texan crowd, and just 13 minutes into the game, Ching gave it real cause for celebration when he struck for the first goal in Dynamo history. De Rosario and Barrett played a nice combination, with Barrett hitting an angled shot toward goal.
Ching slid in behind a defender to touch the ball past Cannon with the slightest of deflections and set off a tremendous celebration as orange and blue confetti showered the crowd and fans high-fived and waved their Dynamo rally towels.
But there wasn't much time to savor the moment as the Rapids struck back barely a minute later. Kyle Beckerman took the ball in midfield well out from the Dynamo goal and decided to try his luck -- the ball flashing past Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad from all of 30 yards to level the score.
Ching narrowly missed on another chance when well-placed in front of goal in the 27th minute, but the Dynamo defense was controlling things on the other end. Even when the Rapids got through, Onstad was there to stonewall the visitors, as he did on two occasions.
Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo was also forced into a pair of major personnel decisions in the opening half-hour. Mathis and Dedi Ben Dayan both suffered injuries, and had to be replaced by Fabrice Noel and Hunter Freeman respectively. Dynamo might have taken advantage of Rapids disorganization with the substitutions as Ching then had his hat trick before the half was finished on nearly similar goals. Twice, De Rosario set Brian Mullan free on the right flank and twice the winger put in pinpoint crosses. Each time Ching came in to powerfully head home, in the 36th and 44th minutes, and the Robertson Stadium crowd could barely believe what was happening.
Just after the halftime break, the Rapids once again pulled back into the game as Jovan Kirovski scored with a spectacular free kick that sailed over the Houston wall in the 53rd minute to cut the lead to one.
But there was no stopping Ching on the night, and he hit for his fourth in the 72nd minute. Once again it was a powerful header from inside the goal area, and once again De Rosario was involved, this time sending a corner kick directly into the danger area for Ching and his record-tying fourth assist.
It was the first time someone had hit for four goals in a season-opening game; the closest previous was Raul Diaz Arce, who scored four goals for D.C. United in their second game in the 1997 season, also against Colorado. Two players -- Mamadou Diallo and Diaz Arce -- have twice scored four goals in a game.
The Rapids were left a man down when Pablo Mastroeni was sent off in the 85th minute for his second caution of the night, the second coming on a tackle from behind on Alejandro Moreno.
Moreno then had the last laugh when he scored the fifth goal in stoppage time, a full bicycle kick that ripped into the back of the net after De Rosario's cross from the left flank was knocked straight up into the air by a Colorado defender.
Ignacio Salazar is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.