HOUSTON I have lived in Houston going on 20 years next summer and ever since I have been here, each pro franchise has had a star, a face to their franchise.

The Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon. The Astros had Craig Biggio. The Texans have Andre Johnson.

Each player is synonymous with not only their team, but their sport as a whole.

Brian Ching was that for the Houston Dynamo.

Now, because of one of the most dumbfounding, boneheaded, stupefying moves I have ever seen, he may no longer be wearing Orange.

On Monday, the day after leading the team onto to the pitch at The Home Depot Center for the 2011 MLS Cup, the Dynamo elected to NOT protect Ching in the wake of the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft. It was a move that surprised many, including myself, given that he led the team in goals this year AND the team is opening a new stadium next year.

Well, on Tuesday, Ching told the Houston Chronicle he would retire if the Montreal Impact selected him in the draft. On Wednesday...the team from north of the border made the Dynamo, a usually well run franchise, look absolutely ridiculous.

And so, on the eve of the franchise opening up a state of the art facility, the demand for which was made possible by the play of Ching...the Orange look like they ll take the field without their franchise player.


Is Ching getting older? Sure. Is he the same player that he used to be? Maybe not. Does he still mean more than anyone in the organization? Yes. This is a giant slap in the face to #25, the latest in a long line of unfortunate happenings for one of the country s best.

I spoke to Ching after the Dynamo s 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy on Sunday in Carson. He told me he has never played in his own place, his own HOME soccer specific stadium. The look on his face when talking about the possibility of it said it all...he couldn t wait for that chance.

He earned it and deserved it. His team took that away from him on a gamble . That is what is sad...

Can you blame Montreal for taking him? No. They are starting a new team and what better way of making a splash than bringing in one of the most respected players in the league. Are they using Ching as leverage to force the Dynamo into a trade? Maybe...but only time will tell...

The team has promised Ching a spot in the front office if he decides to retire and he told us that he already has tickets purchased for the new place. Knowing Brian s devotion to the Dynamo, he will gladly take that job over playing for some random team up in Montreal.

I wouldn t. In fact, I would move to Hawai'i, where he is from. But that's just me.

He is one of, if not the main, reason the Dynamo are relevant in this town. He s been there since the beginning, championing the club to the whole city.

It s really too bad he won t get to do that in a place that should have and maybe should still be called The House that Ching Built .

Sometimes, future success on the field takes a back seat to treating people right.

In this case it didn t.

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