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ASN Player Profile

Can Will Bruin Dance His Way to the World Cup?

Will Bruin knows he is on the outside looking in for a spot in Brazil. The Houston Dynamo forward, who idolizes Brian McBride, talks to Brian Sciaretta about what he needs to to do catch Jurgen Klinsmann's eye.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 27, 2014
1:30 PM
A DESIRE TO EMULATE the best players or teams in the world drives most young American players.

Will Bruin, on the other hand, comes from St. Louis, Mo., in the heart of America’s Midwest, and has always been a huge sports fan. In high school he also played baseball and basketball. During March Madness season he is more likely to be watching college basketball than soccer on television during his spare time. When asked to name a soccer player who he tried to emulate growing up, you won’t hear him name Baggio, Zidane, or Ronaldinho.

Instead Bruin will say Brian McBride, a fellow hard-working striker from the heartland who achieved World Cup, MLS, and European success. Listening to Bruin speak, it is easy to see the similarities.

“I was always the blue-collar Midwest boy that’s just been playing hard,” the 24-year-old told American Soccer Now. “I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, it’s me against you right now and I’m going to beat you. That’s just how I’ve done it.”

In his first two seasons, Bruin scored 19 goals and played for two teams that advanced to the MLS Cup. The six-foot-two, 195-pound forward joined the league without a lot of fanfare when he was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft out of Indiana University. He was not a regular with U.S. youth national teams but has quietly emerged as a top forward of his age group.

After coming off a sluggish preseason where he scored just once in 11 games, Bruin started the new MLS season in fantastic form, scoring three goals and logging an assist in his first two games. He acknowledges that following preseason he was able to get away from the game for a bit to refocus and regroup mentally—and good results have followed.

The Major League Soccer season may only be a few weeks old and the dominant headlines have come from players like Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe along with the rebuilding of many of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Bruin, however, feels that despite the glitz and glamour of new arrivals in the league, Houston will once again contend.

“We have a core group of guys that have been together for 2-3 years,” Bruin said. “I think we have really good chemistry and we know that we have a good team that can beat anybody on any given day. I think a lot of people were kind of writing us off because we didn’t go out and make any big signings. But in reality we didn’t need to.”

For the Dynamo to contend this year, Bruin will have to have a big year similar to his 2012 season, when he scored 16 goals. Last year his production dropped—he only scored 10 times—but he did manage to pick up seven assists.

Predicting the top scorers in MLS is always difficult. Few expected Mike Magee and Camilo to be best strikers in 2013. Bruin is confident that the hot start to the 2014 season is not just a limited run and that he could be up there at the top, contending for the Golden Boot award once the season is over.

“I’m confident in my abilities,” Bruin said. “With guys with the big names: Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Thierry Henry, they’ve already proven themselves in other leagues and other places. People know what they can do. I think I still have to score goals and get a few more years under my belt with showing that I can score before I am up there but I know I can score as many as them in a season.”

Bruin has had faced skepticism from fans and the media as to whether he can become an elite MLS forward, but his teammates have no doubt about his abilities. .

“I think he has a lot in him and I think he’s going to push a lot this year after all the rumors and stuff from last year,” Dynamo fullback Kofi Sarkodie told MLSSoccer.com. “I think he’s ready to prove people wrong and ready to show his form.”

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear sees Bruin as the same player as before, and that bad luck hurt his production last season and in the recent preseason.

"He's not doing anything different,” Kinnear said in his postgame press conference following the recent 1-0 win over Montreal where Bruin scored the only goal. “It's just that the balls are going in. If you hit the target you give yourself a chance to score. He was a bit lucky tonight, but he's been unlucky at times as well. Sometimes it evens out."

Bruin is ambitious for his MLS future in addition to the Golden Boot. He was part of two Dynamo teams in 2011 and 2012 that came up short in the MLS Cup against the Galaxy, but he is aiming to finally win a title soon. He also lists getting MLS past Liga Mx in the CONCACAF Champions league as a priority. “It’s only a matter of time before the gap is closed,” he said in reference to MLS' recent poor showing in that tournament.

As for a future beyond MLS and potentially in Europe, Bruin wants to keep his options open. He insists that the situation would have to be right to leave the Dynamo but it would be “awesome” to play in Europe and that “it’s definitely not something I’m opposed to.”

WHEN AN AMERICAN is playing well in MLS, questions about the United States national team inevitably surface. To date, Bruin has just two caps for the national team, both of which came in friendlies in 2013. His first appearance came as a second-half substitute in a scoreless draw against Canada—and the experience gave him “butterflies.”

He is well aware that with him not on the roster for next week’s game against Mexico, the odds that he will make a late push for the upcoming World Cup are slim. For now, he tries not to think much about the national team, although the importance of forcing his way into Klinsmann’s plans is a priority.

“I put it out of my mind and if it happens, it happens,” Bruin said of the national team. “One thing I’ve learned is that if you go out and play to try to impress for the national team, then you put too much pressure on yourself. If you go out and play for the game and in the moment, things will work themselves out.”

“Every player’s goal is to play in the World Cup,” Bruin added. “Whenever you put that crest on, it’s not something you take lightly. It’s awesome. I’m just starting to break into the scene and I’m a bubble guy. So I have no idea what Jurgen is thinking or what he’s doing with the roster. But the way I look at it is I’ve only played in friendlies and I’ve never played in an actual competitive game. So I’m more of a realist and realistically I’m probably not on the radar for this World Cup team but you never know what can happen, injuries or something."

"There is always somebody who makes the team that nobody expected.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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