HOUSTON – For the first time in four years, Will Bruin’s got a set of fresh eyes on him, and the forward is looking to take full advantage.
After spending his professional career to date under Dominic Kinnear, Bruin is now under the watch of new Houston Dynamo boss and former EPL forward Owen Coyle, and Bruin is looking to turn a new perspective into a leap forward on the field.
“Sometimes when you have the same people watching you the whole time, they know your strengths and weaknesses. It comes to a point where it’s a broken record and they stop telling you,” Bruin told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “It’s always good to get new eyes on you, because everybody sees it different. Owen being a striker, he’s going to see a lot of things. That’s going to complement me big time.”
Bruin’s 2014 season was derailed when he suffered a broken foot in August against Sporting Kansas City, causing him to miss nine games completely and make three minor cameos in October. Still, his 10 goals in 24 league games marked the second-best total of his career, and he hopes to top that after surgery to repair a sports hernia and an abdominal hernia in the offseason.
Having tallied 35 regular-season goals and six more in the playoffs over the past four seasons, Bruin has carried the Dynamo attack at times and even made his debut with the US national team in 2013, but there has always been talk of improvement. Specifically, he has talked about learning to using his left foot more and improving his hold-up play.
Some of the extended dips in Bruin's production have come when played at length as a lone forward. Without knowing yet how Coyle will deploy his team, Bruin may need to find a way to buck that trend in 2015. The main task of a forward, however, Coyle knows his new pupil has covered.
“The bottom line with Will is he’s shown he can score goals. He’s also shown he can lead the line, you can bring him into play and he’s a physical strong man. He’s got a great attitude, a great work ethic,” Coyle told MLSsoccer.com. “I think there is scope for improvement. Hopefully working with us, we can make him a better player. For me, he’s an important part of our make-up, and he’s got an important role to play for the Dynamo moving forward.”
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That role may be well-earned, as competition will be fierce over the course of the season. Houston's 2014 leading scorer, Giles Barnes (11 goals), returns, in addition to the pending arrival of star signing and MLS All-Star Erick “Cubo” Torres.
With a battle for playing time looming, something that could aid Bruin this season is playing with a free mind.
“Days like [Tuesday] when we’re doing small-sided possession, a lot of us that had been around with Dom were asking if we had a touch limit,” Bruin said. “Obviously, Dom’s had a great career, he’s a great coach; but he had a reputation for scaring some young guys into kind of playing into a shell. [Coyle and staff] say you’re free. Sometimes when you’re free, you still play two- or three-touch, but you’re not thinking about, ‘I only have one more touch.’ It’s good on both sides.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.