When Will Bruin scored the match-winner in the 89th minute in a 2-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, it was a moment of catharsis. Not only for the Seattle Sounders, who had equalized just one minute and 48 seconds before, but for Bruin, who recorded his first goal of the 2021 MLS season.
He has two assists already this year, but his first goal remained elusive. He thought he had finally opened his account midweek in a 1-0 win over FC Dallas, but his tally was called back for offside. Then on Saturday, when the Sounders needed him most, he finally delivered.
“It took way too long for me to get my first goal this year,” said Bruin. “It’s nice to get that first one and get the monkey off the back, and hopefully it’s the first of many. Hopefully that’s the floodgates opening.”
The St. Louis native is in his fifth year in Seattle and now has 25 goals in the regular season and postseason. He also has a flair for the dramatic. His last two goals before Saturday’s heroics were in the 2020 MLS Western Conference Championship that started a famous comeback against Minnesota United and a stoppage-time equalizer against the rival Portland Timbers.
Bruin’s contributions go beyond the score sheet though. He’s a strong veteran presence with a proven pedigree of scoring in MLS — he now has 72 career goals — and gives the Sounders a goal-dangerous option every time he’s on the pitch.
“The guy had some injuries, but he keeps working in training,” Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said of Bruin. “He is a quality player and might be a starter on many other MLS teams. He sticks with his teammates, he fights, he works. Midweek against Dallas he put the work in. He puts the work in every single time you put him out on the field. He scores that winner and deservedly so.”
Schmetzer has asked a lot of Bruin this year, constantly tweaking his formation and lineup to find ways to maximize Bruin’s talents and exploit defenses. Bruin’s versatility has adapted in his 11th year in MLS, and it’s carrying over to how he’s scoring as well.
“I don’t think I have too many goals in my career where I pull it up and curl it from the top of the box,” said Bruin. “You have to keep believing. Confidence for me as a striker is huge, and I had a good week of training, so I felt like something was coming.”
Bruin was quick, however, to praise the entire locker room. The Sounders completed a rare nine-point week in which they won three straight road games in the span of seven days. They are in first in the Western Conference with 42 points from 21 matches.
“This is the deepest team that I’ve been a part of,” said Bruin. “We have a lot of quality on this roster, and when we’re fully healthy, there’s going to be a handful of guys who don’t make the [Starting XI] who are going to be upset. That’s what you want in a team. You want competition. You want guys to step up when they get an opportunity. I think the depth of this team showed huge this week.”
Seattle will take on the Portland Timbers next Sunday at Lumen Field (7:30 p.m. PT; ESPN, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) with a chance to punish their southern rivals again after a 6-2 thrashing at Providence Park last weekend. And when Bruin gets his opportunity, expect to see similar fireworks.
“Toward the end of [Saturday’s] game, I was playing right midfield,” said Bruin. “I’m just trying to adjust to wherever Schmetzer wants to put me and get on the field. I’ve been around this league long enough, where it doesn’t matter if it’s MLS Cup or a regular midweek game in the summer, I’m going to go out and try and score every chance I get.”