Los Angeles Soccer: Cam Weaver
Ching's response: “Are you sure I don't need a helmet?”
That's about as emotional as it got for the Montreal Impact's veteran forward, who was forced in November to leave Houston for Major League Soccer's newest club against his (and the Dynamo's) will, and wasn't shy about saying so.
On Wednesday, some 2½ months after Montreal plucked him in the expansion draft, he took on his former 'mates in a preseason friendly on one of the training fields outside Home Depot Center's main stadium. He played the first 45 minutes, battling Boswell and fellow center back Geoff Cameron with some success but few real opportunities, then watched the Dynamo score twice in the second half for a 2-0 victory.
How weird was it for him?
“Ah, playing against the old team,” he said after the Impact's first game as an MLS club against an MLS club. “I know all those guys. I've played against them every day. I guess you could say it's a little weird, but not really, at this point.”
He said he never mistook an orange-shirted player for a teammate, that there wasn't much conversation with Boswell and Cameron, and that he knows the emotions will be far stronger when the teams meet for real June 23 in Montreal and, especially, July 21 and Oct. 6 in Houston.
“It will definitely be weird,” he says. “This is just a preseason game.”
DYNAMO ICON: Perhaps not just any preseason game. Ching, 33, had been the iconic face of the Dynamo since the old San Jose Earthquakes, whom he'd played for since 2003, up and moved to South Texas following the 2005 season. He led them for six seasons, through two MLS Cup title-winning campaigns and toward another championship-game appearance last year -- and played a key promotional role in the campaign that led to the downtown stadium that opens in May.
There are pluses and minuses to so congested a schedule, the Galaxy says, and how well they manage their roster now -- before things turn ugly -- could determine what riches await in the fall.
The Galaxy faces the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night at Home Depot Center, the middle game of their third “three-in-a-week” stretch of the season since the second week of April, and head coach Bruce Arena has decisions to make on whom to “rotate” from his roster.
“We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a very demanding year for us,” said forward Juan Pablo Angel, 35, who could get a rest against the Dynamo. “There's a number of competitions [in which] we're going to be involved, and we got to be prepared. The guys that aren't playing that much are going to be recalled, and they're going to be needed for the team. It's important to have that.”
One starting job certainly opens, with David Beckham “resting” -- he instead played 90 minutes, double the supposed max, in Tuesday's Gary Neville testimonial in England and will join up with the team before Saturday's game at New England.
Arena also could choose to give a break to a backline player (Frankie Hejduk has seen little playing time, new signing Kyle Davies is available, and Gregg Berhalter needs to be introduced to the mix at some point) or give reserve players some valuable time (and not just Michael Stephens and Chris Birchall, but Bryan Jordan and Hector Jimenez).
“More than anything, it's a great opportunity for guys to play, who haven't played, and we'll see [against Houston] a few guys that haven't played as much,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who could miss nearly a month while away for the CONCACAF Gold Cup -- providing an opportunity for somebody to play.
“That's the beauty of this team … as Bruce puts together a team where he's confident putting anybody into the lineup at any time and knowing he'll do well.”