Ever since his smashing 2012 season ended, Will Bruin has been catching flack from Houston Dynamo fans. Many lament his defensive skills and scratch their head at his missed chances when he’s one on one with a keeper. Even when he succeeds, some fans deliver only a back handed compliment to his accomplishment.
Does Bruin Deserve Harsh Criticism?
Bruin’s break out year was 2012. During the regular season, Bruin notched 12 goals in the regular season. To compare him with our most prolific scorer, that is one goal fewer than Brian Ching made in 2008. During the playoffs of 2012, Bruin rammed four goals home to set a franchise record of 16 goals total. However, the measure of a forward is not just in how many goals he makes, but also in the chances he creates. Bruin took 78 shots that season and 18 during the playoffs. He also contributed to the scoreboard with 5 total assists.
After this spectacular debut, many were disappointed in Bruin’s 2013 season. Last year the Dancing Bear scored 8 goals during the season and 2 in the playoffs. Bruin fired off a total of 106 shots, which is not a particularly good ratio of shot success. However, he increased his assists for the year with 7 successful passes that resulted in a goal.
Is this the end of the story?
There are countless examples of MLS forwards having a cool down period. Chris Wondolowski is an example that may hit many fans close to home. Wondolowski, a member of the US National Team, played with the Dynamo from 2006 until 2009. During that time, the famed forward only scored four goals. When he was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for Cam Weaver, Wondolowski became a goal producing machine. In just four seasons (2010-2013) he scored a baffling 72 goals.
Is this the year Bruin catches fire again? When Will Bruin opened the first two games of the 2014 season with three goals, many fans busted out their shirts depicting a screaming Bruin head. With months left in the season, Bruin has already accumulated five goals and an assist. As this article is being written, Bruin is tied for 4th place of goal leaders underneath Clint Dempsey, Erick Torres and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Bruin has scored more goals this season than during the same time frame of his previous seasons. By May of 2013, he had scored two goals. Even in his best season, 2012, he had only scored four goals by early May.
Opportunities for Growth
Fans raise valid concerns with Bruin’s ability to finish a goal when he has an opportunity alone with a goalie. It takes composure and patience to bury a ball when this golden opportunity presents itself. Against Chivas USA, Bruin broke through the Goat defense to face keeper Time Melia alone. This provoked Melia to tackle him, drawing a red card and a penalty kick. Rather than fire off a shot that he might have missed, Bruin kept the ball, earning a point for his team by drawing the penalty.
Bruin’s success is vital if the Dynamo are to secure a spot in the playoffs this year and earn another MLS Cup. He will need the best of both past seasons, scoring more goals and assisting players like Giles Barnes, Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis.