HOUSTON – Houston Dynamo striker Will Bruin is back in the familiar situation of learning on the job.
As the Dynamo have shifted into a lone-striker system in their last two matches, the 22-year-old goalscorer finds himself readjusting to a system he has not played since his sophomore year at Indiana University. As Houston travel to face Sporting Kansas City – who run a 4-3-3 – on Saturday (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online), Bruin is feeling more and more comfortable after two games in his new role.
“It’s hard to switch formations up,” Bruin told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “It’s something I’m adjusting to. … I was more comfortable in the Chicago game than the Philadelphia game. It takes a little while to get the ball rolling and be alright and for it to start being more comfortable.”
The biggest, and most obvious, change for Houston’s target strikers – Bruin has been subbed out for Brian Ching late in the last two matches – is dealing with different types of runs and what amounts to a different set of defensive responsibilities.
If Houston stick with a 4-3-3, as they did for two of their three matches against Sporting in 2011, the key for the Dynamo is to provide Bruin or Ching support, whether from the wings or midfield, as the team look to capitalize on the space out wide.
“It can be difficult because they’re on their own and if you don’t support them the amount of time they have against two center backs can be less,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “He can’t be there by himself … you have to make sure you throw bodies in the box when the ball goes wide. It’s a bit different for Will and for us but his work on and off the ball has been a positive, especially on the defensive side of it.”
Focusing on Zusi
Sporting string-puller Graham Zusi poses some interesting matchup issues for Houston. The active central midfielder can be a handful for opposing defenses as he offers a unique and diverse skill set to try and defend against.
“He’s got a lot of energy and creates a lot of space for himself and is good on set pieces and delivers a good pass,” Kinnear said. “If you can match his effort and limit his touches he’ll have less of an impact, but that’s easier said than done.”
The player likely to draw the responsibility of limiting those touches is Adam Moffat, who knows how difficult it can be to corral Zusi.
“He’s the type of guy I look forward to playing,” Moffat said. “He’s lively and likes to get around and he is pretty instrumental for them. Typically it falls to me to eliminate him and I’ll try and stay tight to him and limit his effect to link the game. He’s a quality player, you can’t give him too much space and time.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.