After a lengthy offseason, one that was long on time but short on match reps, it was business as usual for Will Bruin, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Seattle Sounders win over USL side San Diego Loyal SC on Saturday.
Bruin, who’s entering his 11th season in Major League Soccer and fifth in Rave Green, scored in the sixth minute, a finish quite similar to the one he scored that sparked a 3-2 comeback win over Minnesota United in the Western Conference Championship last year. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer has opted for a two-forward system heading into 2021, a shift from his 4-2-3-1 setup he had used since taking the reins in 2016, and he has plenty of firepower at his disposal in Bruin, 2020 MLS Best XI selection Raúl Ruidíaz and the recently reacquired Fredy Montero.
“Having three really good forwards is a good problem for the team to have,” said Bruin. “There’s going to be competition for spots throughout the year, and that’s a good thing…Competition is good, it brings the best out of everybody.”
Bruin is no stranger to scoring either. He’s racked up 71 goals in 262 regular-season appearances during his MLS career, including 21 in Seattle where he’s already in the top 10 all-time on the club’s MLS goalscoring chart.
A bruising, powerful No. 9, Bruin can certainly carry the load himself as a lone forward, but playing alongside another attacking weapon allows him to showcase other impressive parts of his game and to adjust depending on who his running mate is.
“With two forwards, you have more creativity, you’re able to drop into spaces and get on the ball more,” said Bruin. “I enjoy it because I can get more touches on the ball and get more involved in the buildup and still get in the box.”
Different matches call for different needs, and it will be up to Schmetzer and his staff to figure out which two of the three attackers fit together best on a given day. The battle for a starting role is nothing new to Bruin, and it’s something, in fact, he relishes.
“Throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of competition with a lot of good players and have continued to score goals no matter where I’ve been,” he said. “I welcome it, I think it makes everybody better and raises everybody’s game. I thrive in competition when there’s pressure.”
Bruin & Co. will kick off the 2021 MLS season on Friday at Lumen Field (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1) against that same Minnesota team the Sounders eliminated in last year’s postseason. It’s a challenge that, like most things, Bruin is ready to tackle head on.
“Trial by fire, get thrown right into it,” said Bruin. “That’s the best way to get ready. I prefer hard competition right off the bat, so you know what’s expected, what the intensity is going to be like, what level you need to raise your game to early because it prepares you better for longer stretches in the summer and into the fall.”