Missing a star forward of the caliber of Houston Dynamo veteran Brian Ching for most of the early portion of the season would typically prove to be a devastating blow for any MLS team. However, thus far in 2011, strikers Cam Weaver and Will Bruin have ensured that Dynamo forwards can still be productive.
Weaver and rookie Bruin have featured extensively in the last two games, and the partnership has provided an effective one-two punch while Ching is sidelined with a rib injury. The duo has combined for three goals in those matches. Although Weaver and Bruin are contributing on the scoreboard, it is their off-the-ball work that is standing out to Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear.
“I thought the play of Cam and Will has helped us play better, and when those guys hold the ball up, it helps us bring in good play,” Kinnear said about his forwards’ impact in the club’s first win against Vancouver.
Coming into this season, Weaver was expected to be a reserve who would battle newcomers Jason Garey and Bruin for minutes behind Ching. The 27-year-old native of Washington state has always been a hard worker, but injuries have set him back during his time in Houston. Not this year.
“Being healthy has been great,” Weaver said. “Knock on wood, I am trying to continue that, because I’ve had some unfortunate injuries. Last year, I got injured in the last game of preseason when I was doing well, but now I feel like I can just focus on taking care of my body.”
Weaver’s work ethic, his ability to create space with his size, and his skill at holding the ball up top has proven effective. Bruin was believed to have a similar style – in the mold of Ching – but he has also revealed a different dimension to his game. In his first four MLS games – all starts – the big striker has shown an uncanny quickness, high work rate and ability to find space behind opposing defenses. His early adjustment to the pro ranks is an early positive in the Dynamo’s 2011 season.
“You never know what’s going to happen, because you don’t know how a player’s going to react,” Kinnear said of his 2011 first-round SuperDraft pick. “We’re happy Will picked up his first goal last week, and he’s doing well and learning how to play forward in this league.”
Bruin needs to learn fast, because the competition at striker is heating up. Ching is nearing a return to the lineup and the search for a Designated Player could possibly result in the signing of another quality striker.
“The more players we have playing well and contributing is only going to push each player to bring his best when he’s on the field,” Weaver said, "which is good for the team to be successful this year."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.