Stop if you’ve heard this before: Forward Will Bruin scored a goal at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
Surely you have. The second all-time leading goalscorer for the Dynamo, Bruin has more career goals at BBVA than any other player. Every time he’d score on his team’s bench side, he’d race to the corner to meet them, losing himself in celebration.
So when he towered for a header on Tuesday night in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship and redirected a cross whence it came into the side netting, he did as he always did. Only this time, when he sprinted to the sideline, sporting his jovial wide-eyed smile, he waited, alone. He watched his former Dynamo teammates sit quietly on the bench as Bruin gave his new team in Seattle a crucial 2-0 lead.
“I heard a nice ‘F-U Bruin’ chant, so that was good,” Bruin said with a laugh. “It didn’t surprise me though. I was happy to score and get the win.”
The goal was Bruin’s 12th on the season, one which has been a resurgence in the 28-year-old’s career. From his rookie season in 2011 until ’15, Bruin racked up 46 goals for Houston, the sixth-most in MLS in that span. He recorded double digits three times and helped lead the Dynamo to back-to-back MLS Cup appearances in his first two years in the league.
Things went sour quickly last year, though, as his playing time diminished and Houston finished dead last in the Western Conference. Wilmer Cabrera was brought in to take the reins, and Bruin felt an odd man out. He said this past week that “there would be no better feeling for me than to score for Seattle in BBVA,” and he did just that.
“Whenever I’m fired up and feeling good before a game, that’s better for me,” Bruin said of his anticipation before the match. “For me, mentality is a big thing. I was ready to play, I was focused on it. I didn’t want to get overhyped because sometimes you think about too much, you can overanalyze. I wanted to keep it simple, connect my passes and get in good spots to score.”
Bruin has now scored against his former club twice in their last two matches after another headed goal gave the Sounders a 1-0 win over Houston at CenturyLink Field on June 4. He has proven an invaluable offseason acquisition and could very well turn his fresh start into a championship ring.
“Will’s goal was a really well-crafted goal,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “That was a very good piece of technical soccer skill. It’s just testament to Will. He, again, has been a really good pickup for our club.”
Even with a 2-0 road win, one of the best home records in MLS and a Dynamo team that had little success away from BBVA Compass Stadium this year, the Sounders are not writing this series off yet. Houston spent the final hour on Tuesday with 10 men and also showed their capacity to win away from home when they knocked off the Portland Timbers in Providence Park last round.
The Sounders are not resting on their laurels, and they — and especially Bruin — will look to deliver the death knell to Houston in the second leg at home next Thursday (7:30 p.m. PT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS).
“The message after the game was, ‘You cannot fall asleep for any moment in time,’” said Schmetzer. “We play to our strengths and try to dictate tempo to other teams…We will approach [the second leg in Seattle] the same way. [The Dynamo] are too dangerous to sit back and let them dictate tempo on our home field. That would be a mistake.”
Added Bruin: “We’re not looking to MLS Cup yet. We still have a second leg where they can come into our place and do what we did to them. The game can be cruel sometimes, so we’re not taking anything for granted.”