Ching has most to gain from U.S. win
Brian Ching still remembers the 2006 World Cup.
Not for the games he played, because he didn’t play in any. He remembers it because he was on the U.S. World Cup team’s 23-man roster but failed to play a single minute.
Ever since that disappointment, Ching has been pushing to work his way back into contention for the 2010 World Cup, to do what it takes to make another World Cup team, with the goal being to step on the field and play.
Ching moved closer to realizing that goal by delivering a strong 45 minutes of action that saw him score the equalizing goal and set up the game-winning goal in the United States’ 2-1 comeback victory against El Salvador in Tampa on Wednesday night.
Ching’s performance was one of few bright spots in a lackluster American performance made more palatable by a gutsy late rally spearheaded by Ching, who re-established himself as the best target striker in the U.S. national team pool, a title he took back from Conor Casey.
Casey didn‘t do enough to hold onto that title, and the World Cup roster spot that will likely go with it. Casey had some decent moments where he delivered good passes, but he also looked painfully slow against the quick Salvadorans, which resulted in Casey finishing without a significant chance through 45 minutes of action.
Where Casey struggled to make a real impact, Ching’s impact was felt almost immediately as he flashed a dangerous header wide of goal just minutes after entering the match. His ability to hold the ball up and provide a consistent target for the flanks helped the American attack open up and find more opportunities.
“Brian’s a guy that makes guys around him better,” Kljestan said of Ching.
“It’s always easy to play with Ching because he shows up in the tough spots and he puts his body on the line in front of defenders and he holds the ball up well and brings other guys into the play.”
Not everyone with World Cup aspirations impressed on Wednesday night. Robbie Rogers struggled badly with a series of turnovers, miscues and missed chances. Casey also left the match at halftime having done little to establish himself as the most viable target striker option in the pool, leaving the door open for Ching to make a very convincing case of his own.
Casey wasn’t the only forward who failed to impress. Findley flashed his trademark speed at times, but never quite found openings while Cunningham didn’t do much in his limited action.
There were other promising performances, most notably by defender Heath Pearce, who was dangerous and effective getting forward, and Eddie Gaven, who provided some dangerous runs on the right flank, something Rogers was unable to deliver. While both are regarded as World Cup long shots, Pearce and Gaven impressed at positions where depth isn’t a luxury.
Kljestan’s performance was tougher to label, as he missed some very good scoring chances and had several passes miss the mark through the match.
What he did do well was move and position himself to get involved in plays. He delivered some of the sharp passes he was known for a year ago and helped keep El Salvador from building through central midfield. He then forced the turnover that eventually led to his game-winning goal.
Both Kljestan and Ching still have plenty to do to ensure places on the U.S. World Cup team. For Ching, a big key will be staying healthy after enduring a 2009 season that saw him in and out of the U.S. squad due to a variety of injuries.
“I spent most of January getting physically ready for this season, getting a little bit stronger, hopefully a little bit faster,” Ching said. “I felt good out there. I think the two months away from the game really helped rejuvenate me mentally and prepare me for this year.”
His year is off to a strong start. With three months to go before Bradley selects his team, Ching has positioned himself well to move closer to returning to the World Cup and taking care of some unfinished business.
THREE OTHERS WHO IMPRESSED
Heath Pearce - Left back is a thin position after Jonathan Bornstein, but Pearce made a case for being the next best option. He showed quickness and effectiveness as an attacker that we haven’t seen from him in years. It may not be enough though with Jonathan Spector developing into a viable option at left back, and with Carlos Bocanegra capable of playing there.
Eddie Gaven - The lanky winger brings a unique element to the American attack in that he loves to go at defenders and is skillful enough to beat his fare share of them. Considering how long he has been a pro it is easy to forget that he’s still just 23. He is still a World Cup long shot, but if he has a strong MLS campaign, he could play himself into position for consideration.
Clarence Goodson - A steady force in central defense all night, Goodson didn’t have much trouble dealing with the quick Salvadoran attackers. He appears to have moved past Chad Marshall in the central defender pecking order, though Jonathan Bornstein might challenge him for the fourth center back spot. He’s in a good position for a World Cup berth.
THREE WHO DISAPPOINTED
Robbie Rogers - Whether he was pressing or was simpy out of form, Rogers endured a horrid performance. He was active, and found some quality chances, but he missed the chances that did come and most of his passes missed the mark.
Brad Evans - It might be unfair to call him a disappointment since much wasn’t expected from a converted midfielder playing right back, but the experiment should end quickly after his latest unsuccessful outing. Marvell Wynne may not be the answer as a reserve option to the likes of Jonathan Spector and Steve Cherundolo, but neither is Evans.
Robbie Findley - Whether he was carrying an injury, or was just plain ineffective, Findley contributed little during his 67 minutes of action and probably fell behind Jeff Cunningham on the speed forward depth chart.
Ives Galarcep is FoxSoccer.com's newest senior writer who will be covering U.S. Soccer and MLS.