Will Bruin -- Clint Dempsey -- Hug it out

TUKWILA, Wash. – Currently in the midst of a renaissance campaign of sorts in his debut season with the Seattle Sounders, Will Bruin now has his sights set on helping his new team vanquish his old one.

When the Sounders hit the road for the first leg of their Western Conference Championship matchup with the Houston Dynamo in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday (9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes; TSN1/3, TVAS), Bruin will be in highly familiar surroundings. The veteran striker played for Houston for six seasons from 2011-16 and scored 50 goals – good for second in the history of the franchise.

But on the heels of a down campaign in 2016 that saw him net just four times, Bruin was dealt to Seattle before the start of this season. He responded with a resurgent showing, finishing second on the team with 11 goals in 31 appearances.

Reflecting on his first season with the Sounders following Seattle’s Tuesday training session at Starfire Spots Complex, Bruin admitted he may have grown complacent near the end of his Houston tenure and agreed that the fresh start he was afforded this year was necessary to get his career back on track.

“For sure, I think so,” Bruin said. “It was nice to get into a new place and have to battle for playing time. I’ve learned not to take playing time for granted. There was a little spell in Houston where I was regularly playing and just assumed I was going to play. Here it’s actually nice having to battle every day for playing time at your position, I think that makes everybody on the squad better.”

To hear Bruin tell it, his departure from Houston was more the result of a mutual understanding between the sides as opposed to any sort of ill will or bad blood. Even so, he also didn’t deny that there’d be a bit of extra luster to it should he find a goal in the upcoming first leg at his old stomping grounds of BBVA Compass Stadium.

“I won’t say no,” he said. “I’ll say yes for sure. I’m sure it’ll feel a lot more surreal and stuff when we get closer to the time and we’re warming up there and I’m actually back in Houston. It would be great, though, to be in Seattle and knock Houston out to go to the MLS Cup.

“It would be awesome. I’m mentally prepping for that and going to try my best to make that happen.”

More than besting his old team, though, Bruin says his motivation when it comes to this year’s playoffs is centered on getting an elusive MLS Cup ring of his own. He wasn’t a part of Seattle’s championship run last year and made it to MLS Cup twice with Houston in 2011 and 2012, only to lose to the LA Galaxy both times.

Of course, standing in the way is the Dynamo, who are in the midst of a remarkable bounce-back campaign of their own following a 2016 season that saw the team finish dead last in the Western Conference.

“In life in general, the older you get, the more you mature, the more you realize how things are,” Bruin said. “My first two years, I was like, ‘Oh, MLS Cup, that’s easy. No big deal.’ But not being there the past three years, getting back in the playoffs, you really don’t take it for granted.

“Each game, you prep better, you get ready mentally better throughout the week. It’s just something where the way I look at it, we have a great opportunity and you definitely don’t want to let it slip through your fingertips. That’s the way we’re approaching it.”