This year has been a bit of a grind for Will Bruin. He opened the year as a starter, albeit tasked with dropping into the midfield as more of link-up hub than as a classic No. 9. As a result, and found scoring opportunities harder to come by.
Just as he seemed to be starting to find more chances, though, injury struck. That kept him out for about a month. In the meantime, the Sounders shifted away from the two-forward set and Bruin found himself mostly coming off the bench.
Given his first start in almost two months on Wednesday, Bruin seemed to finally get his breakthrough goal. He controlled a cross from Kelyn Rowe and then slammed it home — a classic Will Bruin goal if there ever was one — only to be ruled just barely offside.
Not one to hang his head, Bruin wasted no time in taking his chance again on Saturday. At the end of a 20-pass sequence, Jimmy Medranda found Bruin in space at the edge of the penalty area. Bruin was so open he had time to almost stop the ball and set himself up for a perfectly shaped shot from 15 yards out that beat Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room to the far post.
“It took way too long for me to get my first goal this year so I’m happy to have that monkey off my back,” said Bruin after ending a goalless drought that stretched back a career-long 14 games. “The hardest thing for me during this drought was staying positive and trusting the process and believing it would work out.
“I’ve not had a lot of goals where I’ve curled it from the top of the box. I felt like something was coming. Hopefully, that’s the flood gates opening.”
Sounders’ winning goal involved at least 20 passes (the broadcast didn’t show start of possession), spans 50 seconds and all 10 outfield touched the ball. Here’s the last part. pic.twitter.com/dHRtCoXixr— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) August 22, 2021
As big as the win was, there was a palpable sense that no one needed that goal more than Bruin. It was such a big deal, head coach Brian Schmetzer effectively blew off the first question he received at the post-game press conference in order to praise Bruin’s effort.
“I’d prefer to talk about the mentality of Will Bruin,” Schmetzer said. “He had some injuries, keeps working on training, might be a starter on other teams, sticks with his teammates, fights, works, midweek against Dallas put in the work. He scores the winner and deservedly so. I’d rather talk about the mentality, starting with Will. We need everybody. We’re pretty freaking happy in that locker room and happy for Will.”
Bruin’s challenges really date all the way back to 2019 when he tore his ACL in training. That cost him an entire year.
When Bruin came back, it was almost exclusively as Raúl Ruidíaz’s backup. His first post-injury start didn’t come until Sept. 27, 2020, and this year he’s been asked to play a variety of new roles. At various times, Bruin has been deployed as a second forward, almost as a No. 10 and even as a winger. He even joked that the Crew probably didn’t know how to defend him playing as a winger in part because he doesn’t know how to play winger.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bruin said. “I love it. Just being on the field is great. A lot of guys have been sacrificing and playing positions they wouldn’t normally play. But that’s what makes such a good locker room.”
And while he’s not been scoring as much as he’d like, it should be said that Bruin is still scoring important goals. Bruin’s previous goal was the one that kickstarted the Sounders’ comeback from 2-0 down against Minnesota United in the Western Conference final and the goal before that was a 93rd-minute equalizer against the Portland Timbers.
“I would like to score more than one or two or three big-time goals,” he said. “I’m just trying to adjust. I’ve been around this league long enough I’m going to try to score every chance I get.”