MNT Feb 12, 2010
Ten goals in 43 international appearances. Four goals in 10 matches of the 2010 World Cup qualifying cycle, good for third-most on the team. A career-high 11 appearances in 2009. Solid numbers for any player, not to mention the things he brings you won't find on a stat sheet. Nonetheless, even Brian Ching admits that last year was not his best, and that he needs to work harder than ever to earn a spot on the roster for South Africa. After one of the longest breaks from soccer in years, Ching seems physically and mentally prepared to do just that...
ussoccer.com: You had a longer layoff than normal this offseason. Has that been beneficial for you?
Brian: “I felt having that extra time was extremely important for me in the sense that it gave me a little bit more time away from soccer. Over the past couple years, I haven’t had much of a break and this really helped rejuvenate me mentally, and got me excited and fired up about this year. It’s a World Cup year, and a big year for the Dynamo as well. I want to play well, and I think by just focusing on getting stronger and faster in January gave me a good head start. Now I’m more physically prepared for the season.”
ussoccer.com: You were part of this pre-World Cup process in the run-up to 2006 in Germany. What do you bring from that experience that will guide your efforts to make the roster this time around?
BC: “I think I know what a World Cup is all about. I know how important the next couple of months are for me to be playing at my best. I’m using this camp and this pre-season to get in form quickly. It’s important that I show well to make my case that I should be on the World Cup squad.”
ussoccer.com: You mentioned the value of the break from soccer. Did you feel like it was an issue last year?
BC: “Last year in August and September, I think I struggled physically and mentally. I finished off the season strong, but I didn’t play particularly well throughout those months. That time off has really helped me mentally be ready and get that desire and drive back. I’m motivated. I want to be on the roster, and I want to have a better year. Mentally I’m in a better place than I was six months ago.”
ussoccer.com: How important is the mental aspect of the game for a striker?
BC: “For my game, the mental part is extremely important. I need to be motivated and excited to be out there in order for me to play well and score goals. I have to be mentally into the games, and I think at times last year I wasn’t. I feel like I have refocused, and I’m in a great spot.”
ussoccer.com: The striker position with the national team is one where there remains a lot of competition. What do you think the players in your position will need to show in order to make the roster for the summer?
BC: “I think it will come down to who is playing well and performing. The striker spot is up in the air, and I know I have to fight for it. I’m willing to do that. Being in the World Cup last time around and not playing has given me even more motivation to be on the field this time around. You’d have to say that striker is the most pressure-filled position, especially at the international stage. Everyone is looking for you to score, so it does make it difficult at times. I think that’s why it is so open this time around. There are a lot of possibilities. A lot of guys have played well, and there are a lot of guys who have been in and out of form.”
ussoccer.com: It seems like throughout your national team career you haven’t always gotten recognition for the different qualities you bring to the field. Is that ever frustrating for you?
BC: “For me, what matters is how my teammates see me. I think a lot of people that criticize the position expect to see players like Fernando Torres or Didier Drogba. Not too many countries have great, great strikers like that. You are always going to be compared to those guys on the international level, and that’s all part of things. For me, I go out there and understand my role, and as long as the coach and the team see value in that then I am happy. Of course, I always want to improve and to score more goals.”
ussoccer.com: Given there are only two international matches remaining before the World Cup roster gets announced, do you feel there is extra pressure for you to perform well?
BC: “Of course I would like to know at this point that I have a secure spot, but I understand that isn’t going to happen. I know I am fighting for my position. I came in here to leave a good impression on Bob and the coaching staff over the next two games. I know that it is limited, but I also know the coaches also watch every single MLS game and I understand I have to play well throughout the season if I want to have a chance of being on the World Cup team. So I look at these as two important games, but every time I come to the national team I know it’s important. You are always being watched and assessed, and so my approach doesn’t change.”
ussoccer.com: You have been through the process of trying to make a World Cup roster and ultimately succeeded, so you know how difficult it is. What would it mean for you to be chosen again?
BC: “It’s been my goal ever since the last World Cup to make the team and be on the field. It’s every soccer player’s dream. It’s more than just playing; it’s being there for your teammates and making a difference. For me, that would be the most rewarding moment of my life.”