The Sounders FC botched their road trip, if only the game plan is evaluated.

Seattle wanted to return with two wins. Instead the club had a pair of 1-1 draws — one against Leon in the CONCACAF Champions League and the other Sunday in MLS play against Austin FC.

Yet, there’s bigger significance the Rave Green can pull from the outings. The obvious in Leon, Mexico, is the Sounders’ first trip to the CCL’s semifinals in a decade.

For Austin, it’s the story line of forward Will Bruin. The 12-year MLS veteran wanted to show he can stay healthy and contribute this season. A mission that strayed off course before the season even began.

Bruin, who signed a one-year contract extension in January, suffered a calf injury that kept him unavailable for selection to start the year. A run that stretched back to October when he suffered a right knee injury and needed arthroscopy surgery.

“Sometimes when it rains, it pours,” Bruin said.

The grizzled Bruin returned to the lineup Sunday. And in the 43rd minute, he tumbled back on track.


Bruin kept pace with teammate Cristian Roldan to collect a feed at the mouth of goal, tapping in the score before a raucous crowd at Q2 Stadium. Sounders midfielder Joao Paulo had the precision through ball into space that helped set up the play.

“It can be hard mentally when you’re injured, but you’ve just got to get through it,” Bruin said. “Getting back on the scoresheet and getting back with the team makes it all worth it.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes leading up to these games. So, in some ways this is rewarding. I wish we would’ve got the (outright win), but from a personal perspective, I’m happy to be back out there.”

The home side had Seattle under intense pressure since the opening kickoff, totaling three corner kicks before the 10-minute mark. Austin coach Josh Wolff utilized the tactic because he felt the Sounders would be drained from a high-stakes CCL match at high altitude Thursday.

Austin’s attempts at goal seemed to get flashier as the game progressed. But the equalizer was a low, left-footed volley in a scramble by midfielder Diego Fagundez in the 70th minute.

“Our actual play out of the back in the first half was some of the best it’s been all year,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “The way you fight off fatigue is if you keep the ball from your opponent, you rest with the ball. So, after that first 10, 12 minutes, our team possessed the ball in moments very well. The forwards that were trying to chase and press us higher, got tired. They started to get fatigued, and that was one of the reasons why we scored that goal in the first half.”


Austin, which combined for 10 goals in their opening two home matches of the season, had nine corner kicks overall and eight shots on-target. Sounders keeper Stefan Cleveland, making his first start since August, had seven saves.

“It was loud back there,” Cleveland said of the 20,738 in attendance. “How I did this last year was doing mental reps of these games and being ready for this environment. Taking full concentration into each training so that when I have to do it for 90 minutes, it’s not the first time I’ve done it.”

Schmetzer started a veteran lineup with four changes from the starters who closed out the CCL quarterfinals series Thursday. Last year against Austin, the Sounders made MLS history by starting five teenagers.

Bruin was in place of forward Fredy Montero. The pair rotated in the 56th minute, Bruin playing limited minutes as part of the medical plan for his return.

Leo Chu slotted in for Jordan Morris on the left wing while midfielder Obed Vargas helped anchor the midfield alongside Joao Paulo. Cleveland was in goal for Stefan Frei, who injured his quad against Leon.

The Sounders remain without Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring), midfielder Jimmy Medranda (hamstring), defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade (ankle) and midfielder Nico Lodeiro (health and safety protocols).


Austin (2-1-1) had their full complement of players available for selection Sunday.

FIFA’s international break begins Monday. Morris (U.S.), Cristian (U.S.), Alex Roldan (El Salvador), Nouhou (Cameroon) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) were called up for their nation’s final World Cup qualifying matches. The USMNT’s quest begins Thursday in Mexico.

Seattle (1-2-1) will return to MLS play April 2 with a road match against Minnesota United FC.

“I’d call it a success,” Schmetzer said of the overall start to the season. “We’ve missed some critical pieces for some extended periods of time. You’ve yet to see this team. … It’s a little early to make any sort of determinations. All I know is the players in the locker room have gutted out some good performances against some very good teams.”