Brian Ching did not get his dream start to the preseason in his native Hawaii. Now he is ready to take out his frustration on Major League Soccer defenses.
Delighted to return to his native islands for the Pan Pacific Championship in February, the Houston Dynamo striker was unable to prevent the defending MLS champions from falling 6-1 to Japanese side Gamba Osaka in the tournament final.
While the Pan Pacific was just one part of a lengthy and grueling preseason, Ching had hoped for much more in front of his home crowd and admitted the disappointment would act as extra incentive ahead of the new campaign.
"It was only preseason, but of course I had dreamed about coming back to Hawaii and winning the trophy," Ching said. "It is a shame how it worked out, but it just makes me hungrier to help Houston be successful again this season."
Dominic Kinnear's Dynamo begin their season Saturday with a trip to the East Coast to face the New England Revolution, the team they have beaten in the past two MLS Cup finals.
15-8-7 (52 points), second in Western Conference, third overall. Beat New England in MLS Cup final.
KEY MAN: Dwayne De Rosario. The Canadian international is the heartbeat of the Dynamo and played a pivotal role in last year's title victory. One of the league's most dangerous attacking players, DeRo will again be vital to the club's three-peat chances.
NEWCOMER: Franco Caraccio. The 21-year-old Argentine striker is an unknown quantity when it comes to MLS, but he could provide some extra attacking spark. He has previously trained with his country's under-20 national team and appeared for Arsenal de Sarandi in Argentina's first division.
OUTLOOK: The critics turned on Houston when it experienced a difficult start to last season, but things quickly turned around. It is impossible to write off the Dynamo's chances of winning a third straight title, as their playoff experience will be crucial.
Coach Kinnear and his well-established group of players may be on the verge of putting together a dynasty if they can pull out yet another championship season.
The Texas club may not have the big names or international superstars of other teams in the league, but Kinnear has knitted together a solid bunch of players who know their roles and will lay their bodies on the line for the cause.
"I believe we can be contenders again this season," Ching said. "We have got a good structure in place and the biggest thing is that we have been there before and know we can do it.
"There is a lot of belief in the squad, and we are not scared by the prospect of playing big games. We look forward to them."
Injury forced Ching out of last year's final, when it looked as if the Revolution could finally win their first championship after leading at halftime. However, Houston refused to panic and launched an impressive second-half comeback, which was capped off by Dwayne De Rosario's game-winning header with 16 minutes left.
Having tasted glory for the past two seasons, the Dynamo know they will have a target on their backs, but Ching welcomes the attention.
"When you win titles as a team, then other teams want to knock you off the top spot and that is normal," he added. "But that is a feather in our cap, and we have enough ability and experience to handle it."