When Will Bruin entered Major League Soccer in 2011, he was immediately thrust into the MLS Cup experience.
The 28-year-old forward played in back-to-back MLS Cups with the Houston Dynamo in 2011 and 2012, but he wasn’t sure how to approach the championship contest.
“I was like ‘It’s my first year, this isn’t bad. Pretty easy to get here’,” Bruin said. “It was kind of just like a whirlwind. I was young, a little less mature so it was just kind of one of those things I took it for what it was. I wasn’t sure how to approach it and kind of let the big moment kind of get too big at times.”
Five years after appearing in his last MLS Cup, Bruin is back in the final with the Seattle Sounders, a team joined from the Dynamo during the offseason.
The seven-year veteran has scored two goals and added a pair of assists during the Sounders’ playoff run in which Bruin and co. knocked off his former team in the Western Conference Final.
Coming into his third MLS Cup, Bruin is approaching the game with a different mentality.
“The way that we’re looking at it, and me personally now, is we’ve played 34 games in the regular season, plus all the playoff games,” Bruin said. “We’ve done it before, so it’s nothing that should be bigger than normal.”
Bruin has been an integral part of the Sounders attacking setup, adding a new dimension to the final third with Clint Dempsey already wreaking havoc against opposing defenses. The partnership gives opposing defenses two different types of threats to prepare for.
“Will’s good in the box as well, but he’s a different type of forward,” Sounders manager Brian Schmetzer said. “Will’s going to get on the end of balls and do some of the dirty work. Clint is going to get his foot on the ball more often and make some good passes. I think the partnership is a good one.”
Not only is Bruin finding the back of the net for his new team, he’s doing all the little things properly as well.
“Will Bruin has been on a really good run of form,” Schmetzer said. “He’s scoring goals. I know you saw the goals he scored against Houston, the header and then getting in on the goalkeeper. What you guys might not see is some of the details that he does being the first guy in our line of defense. It’s a total team effort.
“Will does a lot of the dirty work to help the team and the players behind him get ready and defend in whatever team shape they need,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a team function. There’s not one thing. All of the players believe that defense helps win championships, and he goes out and scores goal too.”
The all-around awareness of Bruin has also been noted by his goalkeeper.
“He’s dangerous and he can play multiple roles,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “He’s a bigger guy so he can hold up the ball, play as a target forward. But if you watch our last game, the deft pass he gives to Victor (Rodriguez) and the chip that he seals the deal with on the third goal, it shows that he has multiple aspects to his game and I think the other thing that shows is he’s full of confidence right now and as we know strikers live off that confidence and that bodes well for us.”
With Bruin contributing on the forward line, the Sounders have yet another weapon that Toronto FC has to watch out for, which will help the confident defending champions.
“We have multiple threats up top,” Frei said. “It’s going to be more difficult for them to eliminate our threats. If they focus on Clint, that gives you Will Bruin and our guys bombing forward on the outside, Nico Lodeiro, our Victor, there’s multiple people. I’m confident in the people we have in the squad.”