Ah, Robertson Stadium. It was older than many people’s grandparents when the Houston Dynamo were tenants there from 2006 – 2011. The second deck was nothing but scalding hot bleachers with no shade provided for anyone. The seats were satisfactory, not comfortable but they worked. The restrooms were ancient (the urinals in the men’s rooms were troughs at the beginning).
The popcorn, we used to joke, was from when Phi Slamma Jamma was still a thing and the beer selection was bleh. Still, though, Robertson Stadium delivered oh so many good memories and there’s nothing comparable today to having over 30,000 rocking fans in an over-capacity crowd for a playoff game. Fans were really into it.
We’ve talked about the playoff series and how insane that was, and Leo wrote a great piece about how lovely Robertson was. This, though, is about the history that started it all, and ended it; and the player who meant so much to the club and fans. Yup, Brian Ching.
His career, and ability to score goals (and to help his teammates do the same) made him a legend here. When a big game was on, you knew he had some magic up his sleeve and he’d do anything to make the team win. He’d throw himself into the game (part of the reason why he retired when he did…body just couldn’t handle the abuse anymore) and more often then not he’d get results.
He opened the scoring account at Robertson and I’m sure you’ve seen the highlights but just in case, and because it’s always worth watching, here you go:
When BBVA Compass Stadium was under construction and the team announced that the 2011 season would be their last at Robertson, everyone was looking for the team to rebound from a horrible (by our lofty standards) 2010 and make some magic happen.
To close out a stadium that had not been the prettiest but had been our home and given us so many memories (a Champions League match in the rain where fans took apart cardboard trashcans for cover? Yup…happened there). When the team qualified for the playoffs, their first opponent was the Philadelphia Union in their sophomore season. The quarterfinal series was set.
The Dynamo went to PPL Park in Chester, PA and won 2 – 1. Fans in Houston were ecstatic and talk was circulating about who would score the final goal at Robertson, and when. Everyone hoped that Ching would get the honors, as he should. It would be perfect on every level, but others put their money on Will Bruin, who was playing pretty well alongside Ching. Still, fans hoped.
The first half ended with the score showing goose-eggs for both sides. That suited the Dynamo fine since they lead on aggregate anyways. Still, they had been pushing for a goal and a foul on the nearside about 35 – 40 yards out gave them an opportunity. Brad Davis set himself up while Ching, Bruin and the rest got into position in the box.
Davis ran up and whipped in a curling ball towards the penalty spot. Ching lost his marker and leaped into the air like only he can do and BOOM! Goal!! The fans went nuts and Ching did his classic celebration by running in front of the ad boards and pumping his fist mightily into the air. The roar of excitement from him was matched by everyone in orange.
Of course it was Ching who scored. Of course it was Davis who had the assist. So many of Ching’s goals came from Davis’ left foot. Of course it came in a big game when the Dynamo kind of needed the goal with the Union pressing all game. Big games made Ching’s career. Always reliable, always capable of making a difference.
As the game wore on, fans couldn’t help but hope that the defense would remain stout so that another goal wouldn’t be needed. Let the final goal in Robertson’s orange history be every bit as magical as the first. The Soccer Gods responded by keeping the Union unable to score, the defense stout and Ching’s goal held up.
The Dynamo would go on to play Sporting KC for the Eastern Conference Title and win, an improbable run to MLS Cup.
Here’s the goal for everyone to enjoy: