CARSON, Calif. — It had been weeks since Will Bruin last touched a ball. So when he received the e-mail he'd been dreaming of his whole career informing him he had been invited to his first US national team camp, he knew he didn't have much time to be giddy.
“I hadn’t really done much since the MLS Cup final [on Dec. 1],” the Houston Dynamo forward said this week at USMNT camp. “I just got away from the game a little bit. I was working out and stuff, staying fit, but I definitely had to get back on the ball quick.”
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Bruin, 23, is one of eight players in camp seeking their first cap with the senior US team. He earned a spot on the 25-man roster with an impressive MLS sophomore campaign in which he scored a career-high 12 regular-season goals and four more in six postseason games.
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The St. Louis native admits he didn’t know what to expect at camp but, with the jitters now gone, he's hoping to make a big impression.
“You obviously want to stand out, but you still have to do all the little things right,” said Bruin, one of five forwards in camp. “You have to hold yourself back from going 1,000 miles per hour. If you just keep it simple, execute simple things and finish your chances, that in itself will make you stick out.”
Whether it’s asking veteran Eddie Johnson for small tips (Johnson has suggested he take more chances, Bruin said) or working to improve physically, it all boils down to one thing: getting that first cap. The USMNT's January camp culminates with a Jan. 29 friendly against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston and there’s nothing Bruin would like more than to be there in front of his home fans.
He's off to a good start. The impression Bruin has made so far in camp has been “very positive,” according to USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“Will is a team player, is focused 24/7 and he’s a great finisher,” Klinsmann added. “We’re trying now to give him another level, a more fast-paced rhythm, which is normal. The national team is always a faster environment to what they’re used to, and he adjusted to it right away. So far he’s done really well.”
Bruin has been a part of a group that, according to Klinsmann, has adjusted well to the higher demands. Their approach and attitudes have been great. Of course, overall success for strikers like Bruin is measured in goals.
“It’s another level out here with some of the elite players in MLS,” Bruin said. “It’s still something I need to adjust to. The good thing is it’s a long camp, so you can have good days and you can have bad days. [Klinsmann] will get to see a lot and see how you play. With last year’s goals, I have confidence in myself.”
Bruin knows there are still technical aspects he needs to refine, particularly with spacing, but that’s what camp is for. Now that the thrill has worn off, he’s back on the ball, looking to take the next step.
“I can still progress and evolve as a player,” Bruin said. “This camp is going to be huge in terms of experience for me and it will give me more confidence when I go back to Houston. Hopefully I can have a good enough showing where I can be in [Klinsmann’s] mind and force him to make some tough decisions in the future.”