Major League Soccer may be back, but Will Bruin’s return will be delayed again.
The Sounders forward suffered a tibia injury in his right knee that could sideline him 4-6 weeks. The incident occurred during an intrasquad scrimmage last week — within days of the June 18 anniversary of Bruin’s ACL injury in the same knee last year.
Add the league’s shutdown beginning March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic and Bruin has one of the more complicated paths to returning to play.
“This last year seems like five,” Bruin said via phone Thursday. “It’s been crazy with everything that’s been going on even outside of soccer, the world in general. It’s been like a whirlwind. At least this injury wasn’t on the anniversary.”
Bruin, 30, will still travel with the Sounders for the “MLS is Back” tournament in July at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The club will depart July 3 to enter the bubble MLS created for all of its personnel to quarantine and play amid the pandemic.
The tournament kickoff is July 8, and the Sounders open July 10 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“When I was training — and I’ll be back to training soon — I felt really good mentally and really fresh physically,” said Bruin of staying on target for a return from the ACL injury. “It was probably the best I’ve felt in a long time in my career. So, I was excited to get out there playing, again. … This is just a little bump in the road, another one you can add on, but nothing that’s going to hold me back.”
Bruin, who backed up striker Raul Ruidiaz before the ACL tear last season, hopes to be available for selection for the Sounders’ second group-stage match on July 15 against FC Dallas. The Sounders wrap group play against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 20.
The group matches count toward the 2020 regular-season standings, should the regular season resume this fall. Each MLS team played two matches before the suspension.
The top two teams from the Sounders’ group will advance to the 16-team knockout stage. The “MLS is Back” championship match is slated for Aug. 11, the winner earning $1.1 million and a berth to the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
MLS will regularly test everyone directly involved with the tournament and is reportedly limiting contact from auxiliary personnel such as staff at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, where the league’s 26 teams will stay. Players from other MLS markets have shared concerns regarding their safety because of the surge in positive cases in Florida.
The National Women’s Soccer League’s Orlando Pride removed itself this week from participating in that league’s Challenge Cup because of players and staff testing positive for COVID-19. Orange County, where MLS will be based, recorded 727 new positive cases Wednesday, according to state’s department of health. The county has 55 coronavirus-related deaths.
“I’m concerned that there’s not enough people in this country that understand that wearing a mask is actually a good thing,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said via phone Thursday. “It amazes me that people think that it’s an infringement of their rights. … I’m still feeling safe about the whole (tournament) process. We will be in a bubble.”
Schmetzer said a Sounders player tested positive in the early stages of the voluntary, individual workouts at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, but none have since. The club is administering tests three times per week.
Bruin agreed with Schmetzer in trusting all the protocols MLS has in place to guard against getting the virus and limiting any spread should there be a positive test.
All of which helps Bruin stay focused on his return to play. He recorded seven goals and five assists in 29 appearances during the 2018 season.
“I’ve been out too long,” Bruin said. “I’m pushing to go.”