July 18, 2007
By Jonathan Nierman
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - After getting off to a slow start, Houston Dynamo's bid to repeat as MLS Cup champions appears headed in the right direction now.
With a 10-5-3 record, Dominic Kinnear's side is now sitting atop the Western Conference standings and just last Sunday set a new MLS record for consecutive minutes without surrendering a goal. Dynamo haven't been scored upon in the last 695 minutes they've been on the field. Pair an amazingly stingy defense with some lethal attacking talent and you've got the makings of a winning team.
It's no mystery, then, why three of Houston's primary contributors have made the trek north to Denver to take part in Thursday's Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game against Celtic FC.
Along with the New England Revolution and Kansas City Wizards, Dynamo's trio of All-Stars is tops among all teams. U.S. internationals Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark are joined by Canadian counterpart Dwayne De Rosario. All three have had busy 2007 seasons, splitting time between commitments to club and country. But they're all back together again now and happy to be taking part in the All-Star events with some familiar faces around.
"To have Dwayne and Rico here, I think they've been for the past couple of years now some of the best players in the league and just to be playing with them and on the same field in the All-Star Game is extremely exciting," said Ching after the All-Stars' first training session together Tuesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
Ching is expected to start Thursday's match on the bench, though bringing in such a formidable and imposing figure later as a less-fit Celtic side begins to tire could make the Hawaiian-born striker even more dangerous.
The rest of the Dynamo contingent, though, will be on the field from the opening whistle. Just as they often do for Dynamo, Clark and De Rosario are set to lineup alongside each other in the center of the All-Star team's midfield, each working hard on both sides of the ball to shut down Celtic's attacks and run at defenders and create opportunities for themselves and their teammates.
"It's definitely a privilege to be able to represent my team and to have Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark out here," said De Rosario. "It's a reflection on our team and how successful our team is because we're representing Houston Dynamo as well as ourselves. It feels good to see Brian and Ricardo and be playing along side those guys. I'm looking forward to it."
De Rosario is no stranger to the All-Star experience, as it was his goal one year ago that gave the MLS side an impressive 1-0 victory against England's Chelsea FC at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
For Ching, the All-Star experience is also heightened by getting to forge some new friendships to go along with his existing Dynamo connections.
"It's an honor and I think more than that it's just fun to get out and meet guys in the league that you haven't met before," Ching said.
He was even able to put aside some Texas rivalry in the process.
"I was just talking to Juan (Toja) and finding out his background and stuff," Ching added. "It's pretty cool because you don't get a chance to meet guys from other teams and when you do you find out they're pretty cool guys and guys you like."
With pals both new and old, Dynamo's trio is sure to be a big factor in the outcome of Thursday's match.