HOUSTON – For all the talk about possession in the midfield and holding shape along the backline, in the end, soccer still comes down to putting the ball in the back of the net. And during these MLS Cup playoffs, Will Bruin has been happy to oblige for the Houston Dynamo.
“A confident forward is a defense’s worst nightmare,” said captain Brad Davis, who’s assisted on two of Bruin’s four playoff goals. “All our guys have confidence right now that when you get to the final third with the ball on his foot, anything can happen. … He’s definitely a guy we’re trying to get the ball to in front of the net, because he’s feeling good right now.”
Bruin has certainly played the role of the marksman this postseason, something he’s looking to continue in Saturday’s MLS Cup against LA (4:30 pm ET; ESPN, TeleFutura in the US; TSN/RDS in Canada). However, he’s done it while playing against type.
Instead of being a traditional hold-up, target forward who uses his body – all 6-foot-2, 190 pounds of it – Bruin and his teammates define him as a hybrid. He can do the hold-up work (though he readily admits he needs improvement in that department) while also deploying the type of one-touch finishing and runs consistent with a fox-in-the-box type.
“For me, Will’s got everything and on top of that he’s got a great work ethic as well. I’ve never personally seen a striker run so much,” said former Derby County and England youth international Giles Barnes. “Will’s my dream forward to play with. … He adds that foil, he runs away and makes space that would allow me to come into little gaps and holes myself.”
Bruin’s ability to run those channels and pull center backs out of position has been a staple of the Dynamo's postseason success. If he can pull off the same trick against the Galaxy center backs, led by the very sound Omar Gonzalez, it could mean more than just success. It could mean a trophy.
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, though, the feeling in Dynamo camp is that Bruin is just scraping the surface of what he’s capable of. And Barnes, for one, is looking forward to seeing the finished product.
“I think there’s a new generation of footballers coming through,” Barnes said. “You look at most of the guys coming through they’re big, strong, athletic and Will fits that bill totally. He can run, run the channels, beat you one-v-one, head goals, and strike goals. For me he’s a complete forward in the making.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.