Houston Dynamo rookie forward Will Bruin openly shrugged off suggestions midway through the season that he had hit the wall.
The 21-year-old got off to a strong start to his MLS career, scoring four goals before the month of May, and looked to be on his way to a stellar debut campaign. Then came a four-and-a-half month scoring drought marked by missed opportunities on the field and a month on the sidelines after August knee surgery.
Following Saturday’s 1-1 first-team draw against the Chicago Fire, Bruin showed off his renewed scoring touch by notching a pair of first-half goals in a 3-0 victory for the Dynamo reserves.
“I definitely feel that,” Bruin said when asked if he felt better in front of goal. “I’ve got my fitness back, and now, after the injury, I’m 100 percent, and the mind’s fresh. I’m getting out there and putting balls in the net, which is all I can do.”
Bruin’s standout performance for the reserves comes just weeks after he volleyed home a 79th-minute game-winner in the 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 17. With the rookie’s mind rejuvenated and his confidence seemingly on the rise, head coach Dominic Kinnear sees a young player that can help Houston down the stretch. Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com that he intended on using Bruin during the first-team match on Saturday, but an injury to defender Corey Ashe forced him to change his plans.
“He’s looking good in practice, and I think that goal against San Jose gave him a lot of confidence, both in the game and on the practice field,” Kinnear said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get him on the field Saturday, but his attitude was great, and he stepped on the field with the reserves and banged in two goals in the first half.”
Kinnear pointed to Bruin's work ethic while injured as one of the reasons for the youngster's late-season scoring glut.
“I think he worked hard to get back … It was his first injury that’s kept him out for that long, and when he got hurt, he didn’t just sit on the sidelines,” Kinnear said. “His attitude and conviction to get back to where he could play was excellent.”
Now Bruin's aim is to stay sharp and keep scoring goals so he can be ready when his number is called.
“[Reserve games] keep me sharp throughout the process of not playing with the first team,” Bruin said. “They keep my game fitness and sharpness in game situations, which is great and keeps me ready for when I’m called upon.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.