HOUSTON – One of the downsides to professional sports is that players do not always get the swan song they imagine.
Brian Ching thought his career would end with a final season in a new stadium in front of the Houston Dynamo fans he loves. Instead, his selection in November’s Expansion Draft has him headed to the Montreal Impact. His dream vanished, Ching originally stated he would prefer to retire than play for Montreal.
It was an emotional outburst. After the dust settled, he mulled it over. Time and reflection, he said, made him realize that wasn’t the way he was going to go out, and that while he may not get the end he pictured, he wanted to control how it happened.
“I decided that I want to retire on my own terms,” Ching said at a press conference on Friday. “I don’t want to be dictated into retirement and, honestly, I feel like I have another year of good soccer left in me.”
So Ching will head to Montreal after all, where he’ll join the expansion club and a head coach in Jesse Marsch with whom he has a checkered history, both on and off the field. The pair of hard-nosed competitors clashed as part of a brief rivalry between Houston and Chivas USA, one Marsch carried into the media by calling Ching a “diver,” which did not sit well with Ching.
Does that relationship need repair now that the two are reunited in Quebec?
“Yeah, I think so, based on the history we’ve had,” Ching said. “I’ve told him this and he’s called me and he’s told me he wants me up in Montreal to help the team out. The things that have gone on in our past makes me question that to some degree, but I’m open to going up there and seeing and having him prove to me that he wants me up there.”
Compounding Ching’s transition is the specter of a potential trade back to Houston that seems to stay in the eye of the national media. But while the discussions play out, the 33-year-old forward is resigned to putting those rumors out of his mind to help facilitate his move.
“I see it as a cat and mouse game that I’m caught in the middle of,” Ching said. “I’m disappointed with how things went down and I’m disappointed where I’m sitting today, but I’ve come to accept it and at this point I’m focused on going to Montreal and playing for my teammates and fans up there, especially the ones who’ve reached out and are excited for me to come up there.”
So as Ching prepares for his move, he is ready to embrace a new challenge and playing with players – such as Davy Arnaud, Donovan Ricketts and Justin Braun – that he has a great deal of respect for. But while he is preparing for a French-Canadian chapter in his storied MLS career, Ching was clear that he maintains the hope things will stray back to their original course and his retirement comes in front of his Houston fans and with a tinge of Orange.
“Eventually I’d like to retire in Dynamo colors,” Ching said. “Be it a trade tomorrow or when the year’s done, I’d love nothing more than to retire in a city that I’ve given my heart and soul to. And I’d like to thank the Dynamo fans for everything they’ve given to me. … Hopefully, whenever it is I come back to Houston, we’ll continue with the great relationship that we’ve had.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.