HOUSTON – It's as if Will Bruin has a large red target taped over his No. 12. The third-year striker has drawn a crowd wherever he has gone in 2013, as teams hone in on the 16-goal scorer to try and neutralize the Houston Dynamo attack.
While attention can be nice, this level of attention has contributed to a slow start and some frustration as Bruin has zero goals to his name while trying to figure out ways to break the pressure and attention being thrown his way.
“That Vancouver game, it felt like there was a triangle around me,” Bruin told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s frustrating during the game, but I’m trying to work on that. If I get frustrated, it ruins other aspects of my game. I feel like if I keep putting myself in good spots the goals will come.”
Despite the lack of early goals, neither Bruin nor the Dynamo are panicking about his play or production. In fact, his ability to create in other ways, evidenced by Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Whitecaps as he played a role in both goals.
That has been Bruin’s role so far, decoy in the absence of goals.
Part of that comes from the club reverting back to more of a lone-striker setup with Giles Barnes operating underneath the 6-foot-2 frontrunner and creating space between him and the midfield.
With that, Bruin’s contributions have come in a different manner. Instead of trying to force the action, Bruin is taking what the defenses give him; making runs and accepting that if opposing defenses want to concentrate on him, he can hurt them in different ways.
“If teams want to focus on me, then that means there’s going to be opportunities for other guys,” Bruin said. “As long as I’m making good runs and drawing defenders away, that’ll open space for other guys and they’re scoring.”
Bruin did that twice against the Whitecaps, showing some nice combination and footwork on the Barnes’ goal and getting free to nod the ball down to Warren Creavalle on the winner.
While pulling defenders and creating chances is translating to team results now, the Dynamo are much better and more dangerous with a Bruin that is scoring on a regular basis.
The good news is the runs and chances have been there. The bad news is that he has yet to see the magic ball that will break him into the scoring column.
“He’s getting his chances, he’s getting free,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “He’s always going to make those runs and eventually the ball’s going to find his feet in the right areas and he’s going to score goals. There’s no worry or concern from us.
“You hope he doesn’t press,” Kinnear continued. “First and foremost for us is, ‘Is he playing well for the team?’ If the answer’s yes, then the rest of it takes care of itself.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.