HOUSTON — To end an era, it is appropriate to revisit its beginnings.
Brian Ching introduced the city of Houston to MLS with a sensational four-goal performance in the franchise’s first win – a 5-2 result over the Colorado Rapids at the Dynamo’s first-ever match at Robertson Stadium.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Houston 1, Philadelphia 0
Five-and-half-years later, in Houston’s 1-0 win over Philadelphia in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, Ching close the door on the Dynamo’s tenure at Robertson.
“I was thinking about that all day, what a way it would be to close it out,” Ching said. “The stars just aligned for me and our team. The goal meant a lot to make it easier to close out the series.”
Next year, the Dynamo will move into their own, new stadium, currently under construction in downtown Houston.
Odds are the side won’t be very different. And Ching closed the club’s Robertson Stadium era with a trademark goal: a header on a set piece.
Just seconds before the half time whistle, Ching made a strong run across the box to get on the end of a Brad Davis freekick and flick the ball into the side netting, past the outstretched arms of Philly keeper Faryd Mondragon.
The face of soccer in Houston, Ching has scored seven playoff goals in Dynamo orange — he added another with San Jose in 2005 — and his latest sent the club to the conference championship for the fourth time in six seasons, and send Philadelphia home with nothing to show for their efforts.
“It was a huge momentum swing for us,” Ching said. “It gave us a momentum swing and it kind of crushed them heading into half time. It let us relax and play a little more at ease.”
At that point, Houston were up 3-1 on aggregate. The odds that the Union would come back were slim, at best. It was so in the bag, in fact, that coach Dominic Kinnear was able to sub Ching off in the 81st minute, and the fans gave him a standing ovation one last time at Robertson Stadium.
“I was just happy to do it in front of our fans at Robertson,” Ching said.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.