Photo by ISIphotos.com
When the U.S. men’s national team takes on Cuba on Saturday there is a very good chance that Brian Ching will be starting up top for the Americans.
That doesn’t sit to well with U.S. fans who have their hearts set on seeing newcomers like Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies and Kenny Cooper.
While it is natural to want to see new players emerge, writing off Ching as a starter ignores the fact that he is actualy on very good form and the most qualified striker in the U.S. national team pool.
Ching has enjoyed a strong 2008 season with Houston, posting 12 goals and five assists. The dozen goals is the most in MLS by a player on a winning team. He has been a central figure in the Dynamo’s back-to-back championships and has developed a good partnership with U.S. national teammate Landon Donovan.
All these things are why Ching deserves the call-ups and deserves to start. Yes, Altidore has all the potential in the world, and his time is coming, but right now Ching has the combination of form and experience that makes him the easy choice to start.
No, Ching isn’t a goal machine, and isn’t as flashy as some of his younger counterparts, but he still contributes in valuable ways. Take the Guatemala qualifier in August. Ching didn’t score in the 1-0 victory but he did set the pick that freed Carlos Bocanegra for the game-winning goal and it was Ching who held up the ball so well and tracked back to defend as well.
As for whether Ching can be clutch, I can think of three instances that I saw in person that were good evidence of his ability to perform under pressure. The first was with the U.S. national team in a qualifier against Jamaica in Kingston. Ching came on as a late substitute and delivered an equalizer in his first World Cup qualifying appearance.
Some three years later, in the 2006 MLS Cup, Ching equalized in overtime just seconds after New England scored what looked to be the Cup-winning goal. With the Revs celebrating, and some of Ching’s teammates sulking, Ching scored the equalizing goal and eventual game-winning penalty that helped deliver Houston’s first title.
Then there was the 2007 Gold Cup final, when the U.S. men’s national team trailed Mexico 1-0 in front of a sold-out pro-Mexico crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago. Ching drew a crucial penalty call that Donovan converted to give the Americans an equalizer in a match the U.S. team went on to win.
These are just some of the clutch moments in a career that hasn’t gotten anywhere near the respect it deserves.
At 30, Ching may not be considered a viable option for the U.S. team in 2010, but right now it’s really hard to argue against him continuing to start. Altidore and Cooper, the two heirs to the national team’s target striker throne will have adequate chance prior to the Hexagonal to show Bob Bradley that they’re capable of doing what Ching does, and more, but right now the job is Ching’s and he deserves it.
What do you think of Ching as a U.S. national team starter? Do you think he’s underrated? Think he is the best option at the moment? Think he should be benched in favor of the young guys? Do you feel comfortable with him holding down the jobs until the young guns are ready?
Share your thoughts below.