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Hawaiian Punch

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As the only hawaiian player in Major League Soccer, 28-year-old Brian Ching is already making waves in the sport. Just take a look at what he's accomplished in 2006 alone, and it's easy to see why he's considered one of the biggest and toughest forwards in the league. Not only did he represent the United States in last summer's World Cup, he also played in the All-Star game against the world-renowned Chelsea team. And won.

Then, in his first year playing for the Houston Dynamo, the team reached the MLS Cup championship. And who shot the tying goal to send the game into shootouts? None other than the eventual MVP-Brian Ching. "That was kind of like the icing on the cake of an already incredible season," Ching tells MF. "It's going to be an almost impossible season to duplicate." He'll at least have a chance to try when MLS returns this month.?

MF: Do you feel the Houston Dynamo has a huge target on its back coming into the season?

BC: Of course. Teams always want to beat the champs, in any sport-it's no different in soccer.

Houston consistently ranks in the bottom 10 of our annual Fittest & Fattest Cities list. Why is that?

[Laughs] Sometimes in the summer, I don't even want to go outside and practice. The heat is just suffocating, with the humidity and whatnot. It's one of those cities that's really spread out, so you're driving everywhere. But the biggest factor is definitely how hot it gets.

On the flip side, Honolulu is always one of the 10 fittest.

Well, living a healthy lifestyle involves eating fish, which is plentiful in Hawaii. There are so many activities to do outdoors, and the weather is always warm. You could go hiking, go to the beach or the park, and surf.

Speaking of which, we hear you love to get up on the board. Where can we find the best waves?

I have to say the North Shore of Oahu. I grew up there, so I'm a little biased, but they have some of the best surf breaks in the world. There's something about being in the water that's so relaxing to me. The biggest wave I've ever ridden was eight feet, which is about a 16-foot face.

Wipe out much?

I think I've nearly drowned a hundred times. [Laughs] I was out surfing by myself once, and it was kind of a shallow day. I went headfirst over the wave, and my face hit the reef. Luckily it was just a few scratches. But it scared me pretty good.

You get banged up in soccer, too, right?

We run into each other, full speed, without any padding, and that tends to lead to more injuries than people expect. I fractured my face twice. Four plates and 12 screws in the left side of my face, and on the right side-it sounds a little awkward-but the doctor said he just pushed the bone out, and it kind of just healed.

How did it feel to play in your first World Cup?

It was an amazing experience. I equate one World Cup game to a Super Bowl. You have so many people from different countries. The amount of viewers you get is amazing. Just to be a part of that 23-man roster-it's hard to describe.

Were you disappointed with the way things turned out for Team USA in the World Cup?

Extremely. I thought we'd do better because, as a team, we demanded more and expected more of ourselves. It's a testament to how difficult the competition is at that level. One bad game really puts you behind the eight ball.

How do you feel about David Beckham joining the L.A. Galaxy?

I think it's great. He's drawing attention to the sport because he's a celebrity. That attention brings our league into everyone's living room. The only reservation that I have is if he comes here and doesn't take it seriously. But he's a great player, so he'll be fun to watch-and fun to play against.

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