Not everyone was thrilled to be picked in the Major League Soccer expansion draft last November, starting with first overall selection Brian Ching .
The 34-year-old striker was disappointed just to be left exposed in the draft, and threatened to retire if he was selected.
The Montreal Impact snapped him up anyway, but at Ching’s request, he was traded back to the Houston Dynamo in February after spending a month at the expansion team’s training camp.
Now the Dynamo captain is back in Montreal to face the Impact. The teams meet Saturday night at Saputo Stadium, where the fans are not likely to welcome the first player to ask out of Montreal.
“They should feel passionate about the Ching situation,” Impact coach Jesse Marsch said Friday. “I thanked Brian for his service to the team.
“He was great while he was here. But in the end, he’s on the other side of the field. There was a lot of drama to the situation, but listen, when I go to Houston I’m going to get a certain kind of welcome as well, so I hope he gets that here. But it’s going to be important to focus on the game.”
It will be the Impact’s second home game since they reopened their expanded and renovated stadium last week with a 4-1 thrashing of the Seattle Sounders.
The Impact (4-8-3) are coming off a 2-1 loss at Chivas USA on Wednesday night. On the same night, the Dynamo (5-4-5) posted a comeback 3-3 draw at home against Toronto FC on two late goals from Will Bruin.
Montreal will be without Italian striker Bernardo Corradi, who is likely out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Central defender Matteo Ferrari is out 4-to-6 weeks with a thigh injury.
There appears to be no hard feelings among the Impact players toward Ching, a 10-year veteran with the Dynamo franchise who moved with the team from San Jose to Houston for the 2006 season. He won consecutive MLS championships with the Dynamo in 2006 and 2007.
Ching said he had nothing against Montreal, but wanted to be with the Dynamo, especially for the opening of the club’s new downtown Compass Stadium in May.
“I think everyone knew his situation,” Impact captain Davy Arnaud said. “When he was here, I think he really enjoyed the group and he became close with all the guys.
“I think it was tough for him to leave and go back. But he’s doing well for them again. I texted with him this week and I know he’s looking forward to coming in and playing here.”
Ching, who has 78 goals in 202 career MLS games, is struggling on attack with one goal and two assists in 13 games this season. He said this week he is looking forward to playing in Montreal.
“They’re good guys,” he said. “I enjoyed my time up there.
“But having said that, we have to face them now. They have a great fan base. The atmosphere is fantastic up there.”
Dynamo management took a chance in leaving Ching exposed, hoping his threat to retire would cause Montreal to pass him up. Finally, the Impact got a conditional first- or second-round pick in the 2013 SuperDraft for sending him back.
Another Dynamo player who should be up for the match is defender Andre Hainault, a 31-year-old Canadian international from the Montreal area who began his pro career with the Impact in 2004, when they were in the USL First Division. Hainault moved on to play in the Czech Republic before signing with Houston in 2009.
Marsch said he is not sure who will play at striker against Houston. Andrew Wenger, a rookie who started the last two games, spent practice on the sidelines working on a hamstring problem. With Corradi also out, Justin Braun or Sanna Nyassi may get a start.
Defender Hassoun Camara, back from a hamstring injury, may play. But Marsch said the lineup would depend on who was fresh after the match in Los Angeles against Chivas.
Corradi twisted his knee during practice on Monday.
Technical director Nick De Santis said a verbal agreement to extend the 35-year-old’s contract, which is due to expire at the end of the month, will be “respected,” but the team is trying to work out with the league how to keep him and pay him without it counting toward the salary cap.
At his age, the team is uncertain if the big striker can come back next season.
“He’ll do his rehab to come back, if he can come back next year, you have to wait and see,” De Santis said. “We won’t close the door on someone like that. The most important thing now is his health.”
The club has help on the way in former Italy international Marco Di Vaio, who has been training with the team in recent weeks but won’t officially join them until the transfer window opens on Wednesday. Montreal will play host to Toronto FC that night.
Notes: Impact forward Miguel Montano, who tweeted that Montreal was a “racist city” this week, then took the comment back, took part in practice Friday. The Colombian reserve player has filed a complaint with the city’s transit commission after he was allegedly refused service at a ticket booth because he spoke in English. ... A report in Houston said Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron has drawn attention from English club Stoke City, although an offer has yet been made.