I've said, and others have said, that Mauro Manotas deserves to start over Will Bruin. Manotas is younger, he provides more energy on and off the ball, and he has shown an ability to score goals in the past. Bruin has recently been going through a bit of a drought, only furthering the concerns over whether he is good enough to start.
With a goal on Sunday in Portland, Bruin may not have convinced us otherwise, but he did show the value of having him in the starting lineup. Let's take a look at his goal:
The play begins with Boniek Garcia receiving a simple pass from DaMarcus Beasley:
Garcia (27) won't have many options besides a pass back to Beasley or a long ball. The Dynamo didn't appear to have any intention of attacking through the middle on this play, as you can see by the lack of midfielders helping in build-up.
Alex (orange arrow) is up front with Bruin. With Portland right back Alvas Powell a step or two ahead of the backline, there is room in the right channel for him to run. Boniek will have the option of putting a ball into the corner for the Brazilian to run on to.
The yellow line connects the central midfield partnership of Diego Chara and Ben Zemanski.
Garcia takes a quick look at the run from Alex, but forgoes the possible pass and decides instead to flip the ball back to Beasley, who has a better set of options than Boniek did.
Alex (blue arrow) is tracking back into central midfield, drawing the attention of Zemanski (yellow arrow); if the Ohioan midfielder decides to follow Alex, it could leave that part of the field wide open. Also, Ricardo Clark (circled in red) is showing himself, and Boniek (in orange, bottom of the screen) is still available should Beasley decide to overlap.
As you'll see, Beasley goes back to basics:
Boniek is back on the ball yet again. Beasley starts running forward, like he does so often, and it appears that Zemanski is gesturing to Powell as if to say, "watch the overlap." It could be something completely different, but that's my best guess.
Alex is there as another option, although I don't think Garcia has any intention of passing to him. The Honduran (again in orange) appears to have more ambitious options. Bruin (light blue arrow) is making a run centrally, and Boniek appears to have his eye on that.
Bruin is very good at splitting the center backs, and that is exactly what he doing here. Nat Borchers (left) and Liam Ridgewell have to hold the defensive line, but also have to get goal-side of Bruin, so it is hard to track runs like these. With the space in front of them so open — defensive midfielder Diego Chara (yellow) is pushed further up the field — the veteran center back pairing are all alone here. This is good recognition by Bruin.
The long ball is sent in Boniek. It's may not be the highest quality ball, but it most certainly does the job. It's going to bounce just over the heads of the defenders, allowing Bruin to get in between them and find the ball.
Beating Bruin to a ball in the box is not an easy thing to do.
Ridgewell looked like he was in a good position to deal with it once it bounced, but he misjudged it and allowed Bruin to break through and toe-poke it past a helpless Jake Gleeson. This can be considered a slight mistake by Ridgewell, but this is more about Bruin's ability to cause havoc in the box.
That goal is Bruin's case for why he should be starting over Manotas. He is very good at winning balls in and around the box and dragging defenders around, opening up space for other players. He is usually a good finisher and he can always score the scrappy goals every team needs. He can be relied on to score 10-12 goals a season, many of them like the one above.
He's not the best passer, or the most athletic, or the most dominant in the air. He is who he is, and that can be valuable.