How fans react to a player is often based on what the initial expectations of them are. Exceed them and become a cult hero. Fail to meet expectations, even if they are a little unrealistic, and you will have a hard time shaking the underachiever label.
It's not unusual to see Dynamo fans bemoaning the lack of production from Will Bruin on Twitter. That guy who sits behind me at BBVA grumbles "F'ing Bruin" every time the ball gets near him and it doesn't immediately result in a goal. Similar reactions were common at the recent scrimmage against Colorado. I overheard people talking about the need to get rid of or trade Bruin fairly often while waiting in line for a beer at halftime last year. Even Bruin "defenders" can have a "Let's give him one more year" attitude. It could just be a vocal minority, but for me at least, the "I'm tired of Waiting on Bruin to produce" camp seems to be growing. That mindset didn't make sense to me, so I decided to compare what Bruin has done in his career so far to Mr. Dynamo, Brian Ching.
Bruin's MLS Regular season goals in his first three years:
25 goals (5g in '11, 12g in '12, and 8g in'13)
-Chings best three year run was '06 through '08 and resulted in 31 goals
-Chings first three years in MLS netted him 19 goals (I'm not counting the season he spent on loan with the pre-MLS Sounders*)
-Bruin's single season high came in '12 when he scored 12 goals.
-Ching's best ever MLS year was 13 goals in '08. Ching only had 2 other years where he scored in double digits; 11 in '06 and 12 in '04.
What about the playoffs?
-Bruin has 6 MLS goals in the playoffs from 10 starts the last two seasons (he only saw 37 minutes in 3 games off the bench in the playoffs his rookie year and didn't score)
-Ching's career total in the playoffs is 8 goals in 26 games (20 starts)
-Bruin's 4 playoff goals in 2012 are a Dynamo club record (Ching had 3 playoff goals in 06).
Bruin has also added 12 assist over his first three years, which includes a 7 assist year in '13. Ching's best three year assist period was 11 and he never had more than 5 in one season.
Let me be perfectly clear on a couple of things
First, despite a pretty favorable comparison above, I'm not trying to say that Bruin is on the same level with Brian Ching. Ching's contributions to this team go far beyond what can be counted on a stat sheet. I'm just pointing out that the idea Bruin hasn't produced is at least partially flawed. Compared to most other players who started their career in MLS, Bruin's production through his first few years looks very good. Look up a guy like Jack McInerney's numbers and compare them to Bruin's. He was better last season, but it took him a few years to get going.
Second, I recognize that Will needs work on parts of his game. At the end of the day Strikers get paid to score goals. So, even though I think his production has been better than he gets credit for his conversion rate does leave something to be desired. In 2013 Bruin took 98 shots, with 30 being "on goal", and only scored 8. That's just not good enough. In 2012 he was more efficient scoring 12 goals on 78 shots, but to be the player we're hoping for he has to be more consistent finishing his chances. Bruin knows it too. You can see it on his face every time he misses a chance, and you can tell he's probably forcing things. Even in training. I would be much more concerned if he wasn't creating chances though.
So should we expect more from Bruin? Sure. Part of the reason so many people are frustrated with him is because I think everyone sees that the potential is there. We should just be careful not to let lofty expectations cloud our perception and keep us from appreciating what we have.