When the Montreal Impact play their inaugural MLS game at Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium on March 10, forward Brian Ching might be elsewhere.
Ching, the Impact’s first selection in Major League Soccer’s expansion draft last year, received permission to leave the team to return to Texas, where he played the past six seasons for the Houston Dynamo.
“He came to us Sunday morning and we spoke about it,” said Impact head coach Jesse Marsch, who confirmed Ching is in Houston. “He went home because he had some personal reasons. He wanted to keep those tight to himself.”
Meanwhile, a Dynamo official confirmed this week that the team is discussing a possible trade for Ching, and had received permission from the Impact, MLS and the players’ union to contact Ching and try to restructure his contract.
“There are two parts,” said the official, who spoke on a not-for-attribution basis. “One is the trade with Montreal to reacquire his rights, and the second part is restructuring his contract so he can fit in our salary cap.”
The players’ union listed Ching’s salary for 2011 as $412,500 (U.S.), though not as a designated player. Ching’s contract was automatically renewed for 2012 when he played in the 2011 MLS Cup.
The Dynamo official said the two clubs renewed discussions recently. March 1 is the deadline for teams to comply with the league’s roster and salary parameters.
However, Marsch said he expects Ching to return to the Impact once the forward attends to his affairs in Houston.
“He’s probably going to miss the rest of this trip,” the coach said of the Impact’s training session in California, which ends Friday. “But we’re still waiting to hear from him and how things are getting sorted out. When he gets back, we’ll continue to move with him.”
Before the expansion draft, Ching said he would retire if the Impact selected him. But he changed his mind and reported to the team on Jan. 16. He has played 45 minutes in one exhibition game – ironically, against the Dynamo.
“Everything that’s gone on with Brian has been difficult for him to process,” Marsch said. “But he’s been part of this group for the past month and he’s done a great job of committing himself to that.”
Marsch also said the Impact selected Ching to have him play and serve as an example for his teammates, not to trade him back to the Dynamo (for possibly defender André Hainault, a Montreal native and Canadian international).
“He’s a real pro and he puts a lot into every play,” Marsch said. “When we looked at the expansion list, there weren’t a lot of guys out there who had his experience, have been as successful as he is and know what it takes to win.
“That’s what made it a good fit.”
Ching, the Dynamo’s all-time leading scorer, helped the team reach three MLS Cups and win two of them .
“Brian’s an important part of our history,” the Dynamo official said. “Brian has given a lot to his organization, to this community. He’s beloved by the fans here and he can still play soccer.
“We’re opening a brand-new stadium this year and it would be very nostalgic and special walking through that tunnel as a member of the Dynamo. There are a lot of good reasons why we would like to see Brian return.”
Special to The Globe and Mail