Seattle Sounders forward Will Bruin made his first start of 2022 on Sunday against Austin FC and rewarded Head Coach Brian Schmetzer with a first-half goal that helped the Rave Green leave Texas with a point in a 1-1 draw.
The goal was a cathartic one for Bruin, a forward who now has 75 career regular-season goals in his 12 MLS seasons. The 32-year-old picked up a knee injury last October and missed the rest of the 2021 season before beginning this year battling a calf injury.
With Raúl Ruidíaz still out with a hamstring injury and Fredy Montero coming off key minutes at Club León in Concacaf Champions League on Thursday, the Sounders needed a big contribution from Bruin, and they got it.
“It’s nice to be healthy and be back on the field, first and foremost,” said Bruin. “It’s nice to get a start again and get back on the score sheet, that all feels good.”
Bruin wasn’t the only player who needed to be called upon on Sunday. Leó Chú had an active afternoon for the rotated Jordan Morris, and goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland made seven massive saves filling in for the injured Stefan Frei. The Sounders have one of the deepest rosters in MLS, as well as the belief in each other to do their job.
“There’s a lot of trust within the team when somebody steps in who hasn’t been starting,” said Cleveland.
Echoed Bruin: “This is the deepest team I’ve been a part of. We have guys who have a lot of experience and guys who can probably start on a lot of teams. The flexibility to be able to do that, Schmetzer is doing it perfectly, and we’re showing that guys are capable of stepping up and doing it. That’s something that makes the whole roster competitive every day at training.”
The Sounders struggled out of the gate in MLS, dropping their opening two matches while juggling CCL play. Since then, Seattle is unbeaten in its last four games in all competitions and qualified for the CCL semifinals for just the second time in club history.
Seattle will have a much-needed and deserved rest over the next two weeks for a FIFA international break, which will give Ruidíaz (hamstring), Frei (quad), Yeimar (ankle), Jimmy Medranda (hamstring) and Nicolás Lodeiro (Health and Safety Protocols) more time to recover ahead of another massive stretch.
“Maybe we don’t have as many points in league play as we would like, but I’m not worried about this team at all,” said Bruin. “We have the quality, the depth, the right attitude that come the end of the year we’re going to be right up there competing. We’re in the semifinals of Champions League, our goal is to win Champions League and become the first MLS team to do that. We’re balancing a lot of aspects right now and doing a really good job of that.”
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The Sounders will be confident as well that whoever they throw onto the field will perform, just like Bruin & Co. did on Sunday.
“Will did a good job holding up play in different moments,” said Schmetzer. “His goalscoring is what we rely on him for…Will and Cleveland had big parts in this game, and it’s just reward for those two guys to keep working, keep grinding, and when they get their opportunity making sure they show what they’re capable of.”