The Houston Dynamo crowd was treated to a franchise first on Saturday night, when Will Bruin debuted as the first rookie starter on opening day in the club’s history.
The Indiana University product lasted 61 minutes in front of 19,385 fans, paired up top with offseason pickup Jason Garey against the visiting Philadelphia Union. With the raucous crowd and a fired-up opponent, emotions were certainly high for the rookie’s debut.
“It was definitely a good feeling,” Bruin said. “There was a big crowd for the home opener; it was just an awesome feeling.”
Still, the style of play made it a tough match to break in a rookie forward. The Union started a physical center back pair in Danny Califf and Carlos Valdés, and an early goal prompted the visitors to play most of the night sitting back to preserve their early lead.
The commitment to defense closed down the windows for service and condensed the space for Bruin and the Dynamo forwards to operate. The Union held on for a 1-0 win in the season opener. Bruin, for his part, adapted to MLS play quickly and held his own, displaying a good work rate and threatening to even the match up in the second half.
Bruin’s best moment came during the early stages of the second half when he challenged Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón. The rookie turned his defender and made an attacking run into the box, hitting a hard shot at Mondragón. The veteran goalkeeper parried the rookie’s shot out wide for a corner kick, but it was one of the Dynamo best chances of the evening.
“[Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear] has been emphasizing keeping shots on frame and making the goalkeeper make the save,” Bruin said. “Unfortunately he made the save. I didn’t play up to my standards in my mind, but you have to put that out of your mind and look forward to the next game."
It was a physical match Saturday night, with three yellow cards handed out to Carlos Ruiz, Brad Davis, and Philly's Valdés.
“I don’t think it was a rough night in terms of physicality, I just think it was tough for us to score,” Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell said.
Ruiz’s punishment for an elbow to Andre Hainault while going for a loose ball has caused somewhat of a stir. Referee Abiodun Okulaja issued Ruiz a yellow card, but the question was asked postmatch if the challenge deserved a stiffer penalty.
“I don’t think the ref had that much impact on the game,” Boswell said. “You can throw a red on [Ruiz’s challenge], but that is at his discretion.”
Frustration for Hall
Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall made a solid 2011 debut, with three saves against the Union Saturday night. However, the play that stood out to Hall was the one he did not make on the game’s only goal.
“It’s never good to give up a goal early on,” Hall said after the match. “It’s frustrating for me, because I think I can come out and be a big goalkeeper right there and prevent that little scramble.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.