SEAvCOL Will Bruin sider cover-2

During the 2021 MLS preseason, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer hinted at a possible formation change for the upcoming campaign.

One of the reasons he often cited for switching away from the 4-2-3-1 setup that had yielded so much success to an unfamiliar three-man backline was a desire to get forward Will Bruin on the field more often. As he’s done countless times this season, Bruin rewarded that faith with a masterclass performance at striker in the Seattle Sounders’ 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids Lumen Field on Sunday that saw Seattle maintain the top spot in the Western Conference.

“I think that Will doesn’t get talked about enough,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said after the match. “He does so much work for us. Unfortunately, he didn’t score, but the amount of work that he does, and the amount of battling that goes unnoticed that I really want to highlight because without him we don’t score those goals.”

Baseline statistics fail to capture Bruin’s imposing influence on every match. Often tasked with the dirty work expected of a bruising No. 9, the change in formation has also provided a platform for him to showcase his will-rounded skillset – especially his clever runs and playmaking abilities.

“He doesn’t get enough credit for the hold-up play and the passing that he does,” said Roldan. “The pressure that gets released based on how he plays.”

Bruin might not have scored against the Rapids, but he played a critical role in all three goals.

On Roldan’s opener in the 2nd minute, Bruin helped force a turnover in Colorado’s defensive third before supplying the assist.

The second goal perfectly exemplified Bruin’s tactical awareness and vision. With the left-sided center back pulled up field, the Sounders forward checked back before playing a no-look, first-time pass into space for Roldan, who pulled it back for Medranda to eventually smash home.

On the third, it was Bruin’s work rate to force Colorado center back Auston Trusty into a miscued header that subsequently fell to João Paulo. The Brazilian midfielder then drove into the acres of space that Bruin had helped create.  

“His hold-up play; running in behind; his effort; his work rate,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said of Bruin when asked about his influence on the game. “He’s a team guy and I love it.”

Colorado has been of the stingiest defensive teams all season. Even after conceding three goals against the Sounders, they boast the fourth-best goals-against record in all of MLS with a goals-against average of 1.0. But on Sunday, their back line and midfield looked in disarray due in large part due to Bruin’s willingness to battle the center backs and drag them out of position with his clever off-the-ball movements.

“He does the hold-up play, and then his timing and his ability to hold off a defender while he’s sprinting is what makes him so fast,” noted Roldan. “The runs that that he makes out of the forward [position] – defenders don’t want to go out wide, especially center backs – so that’s what makes him so special. That’s what makes him really difficult to defend. We’re lucky to have him.”

After Sunday, Bruin has two goals and three assists from 964 minutes of MLS action this season. But there’s one stat the better illustrates his influence on the field: the Sounders are unbeaten with a 9-0-3 record when he starts.

Bruin and the Sounders return to action on Saturday as they host the Vancouver Whitecaps (6:00 p.m. PT; FOX 13+, Prime Video, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS) at Lumen Field.

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