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Will Bruin helps spark offense in first start of season

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Bringing Will Bruin in at lone forward seemed to unlock the Sounders’ attacking potential.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Los Angeles Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the Seattle Sounders’ away match at LA Galaxy last weekend, questions about their attack were getting louder and more persistent after scoring two goals in three games. The Vancouver game was particular cause for distress as despite racking up a ton of shots, including a handful on goal, the Sounders only scored one goal—through substitute Will Bruin. Many wondered the following week why Bruin had not yet started for the team, as his substitute appearances had been pretty strong, especially in front of goal. He finally made his start against LA, and though he didn’t get on the scoresheet, his style and hard work at forward helped the team seal a massive 3-0 win against the Galaxy.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer admitted his usual philosophy is to give veteran players “the first shot” at a starting position. We’ve seen that in the case of Gustav Svensson, whose seniority and experience gave him first crack at multiple positions early in the season, even though he was new to the club. But in the case of the Sounders in the beginning of the 2017 season, he has a temporary philosophy in place: “the group that won a championship was going to get first crack at it.” It helps that Jordan Morris is an incredibly talented player who played a huge role in getting the Sounders that championship. But as it started to seem like Morris wasn’t being used effectively as the lone forward in Schmetzer’s 4-2-3-1 formation, the coach decided it was time for a change.

The coach slotted Bruin into his starting XI as the central forward, with Morris taking up a pretty narrow position on the left wing. This clearly changed everything in the attack as the Sounders cruised to their biggest win of the year. Bruin didn’t score, but his positioning and persistence helped with all three goals. Schmetzer said his main instruction for Bruin was to “just stay high and occupy [center backs] Steres and Van Damme.”

Morris also played well in his new position, slotting Seattle’s third goal after Dempsey worked the ball into the box. He didn’t play like a typical winger, but the gamble clearly worked pretty well—possibly a sign that Schmetzer sticks with the same front four against New England next weekend. Morris wasn’t perfect in that spot, though, and Schmetzer said he hopes to work on some things with the player this week. “We’ll watch some film with him on an individual basis just to tweak where we want him to be in certain moments.” But overall, the Sounders coach said he’s happy with Morris’ performance.

Even though his coach praised him and he netted a goal, Morris was pretty unhappy with his semi-early substitution, according to Schmetzer. “I took him off and he was pissed at me a little bit, he didn’t want to come off.” Apparently Morris’ ankle is still not back to 100%, and the substitution was simply a precaution. “ I take 30 minutes off him there, make sure nothing happened, because we’re still on a gradual process to get him to 100%.”