Will Bruin expected to be challenged with a new two-forward formation and playing alongside a new teammate in Fredy Montero this season. Scoring was supposed to be the easy part.
But across the U.S., Bruin would walk off soccer fields without logging any stats, the most glaring for the veteran was the lack of goals. Tack on last season and the drought stretched 17 games, including playoff and international matches.
The empty slot in his goals column was filled Saturday when the Sounders FC most needed a score.
Bruin knocked in the late, game-winner of Seattle’s 2-1 victory against the Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field. It was his first score since a goal to help the Sounders pull off a historic comeback against Minnesota to win the Western Conference championship last year.
“The hardest thing for me throughout this little drought on a personal level was just trying to stay positive and trust the process and believe that things are going to work out,” said Bruin, who thought he had a break through Wednesday against Dallas but was called offside.
“Having the one pulled back in Dallas and then scoring tonight, I’m proud of it, I’m happy for it. I don’t think I’ve had too many goals in my career so far where I pull it up and curl it from the top of the box. But I had to keep believing.”
The shot in the 89th minute capped the type of comeback the Sounders couldn’t create in December 2020. Then — at a facility about five miles away — Seattle was embarrassed in a 3-0 loss to Columbus in the MLS Cup championship match.
A loss that prompted the Sounders to change lineup formations. But coach Brian Schmetzer used a similar formation Saturday, until he subbed Bruin on in the 84th minute with Seattle down a goal.
“Versatility as a player is huge,” Bruin said. “Throughout my whole career, I’ve pretty much solely been a No. 9 (forward). … When you have guys that can play multiple positions, you can kind of change formations. It’s hard to defend. Columbus probably had no idea how to defend me as a right winger. I didn’t even know how to play right winger but I tried.”
Columbus created its only score off a corner kick in the 77th minute. Crew midfielder Lucas Zelarayán sent the ball in from the corner and defender Jonathan Mensah had the first attempt that was blocked. Bradley Wright-Phillips collected the rebound and whipped it past Sounders keeper Stefan Cleveland.
Sounders defender Xavier Arreaga had a similar score on the other end in the 88th minute for the equalizer. He missed the MLS Cup loss because of the birth of his first child.
Bruin’s score in the 89th minute was on a solid buildup by Seattle. Midfielder Jimmy Medranda used a cutback pass to Bruin in the box to set up the attempt.
Seattle (12-3-6) finished a grueling three matches in seven days with three straight wins. It’s the second time this season the Sounders completed a trip with three outright wins.
Columbus (6-9-6) suffered its sixth straight loss of the season, a club record low.
“We showed that we can do it,” Arreaga said. “Everything (is possible), if we want.”
Seattle’s Yeimar Gomez Andrade, Nico Lodeiro and Montero had shots on target in the opening half. None was able to find the back of the net, the sides heading into the break scoreless.
A socially distanced crowd of 1,500 due to the COVID-19 pandemic witnessed the Crew’s MLS Cup win last winter. It was the close of Mapfre Stadium. Now referred to as the Historic Crew Stadium, the facility was the first soccer-specific design in MLS.
Saturday’s broadcast featured the soundtrack of a lively crowd of 19,401 at the new stadium located on the rim of downtown Columbus.
The Crew played without star Gyasi Zardes. The U.S. men’s national team forward injured his hamstring in the Crew’s 1-0 loss Wednesday against the New York Red Bull. Miguel Berry, who last made an appearance in July and has one start this season, replaced Zardes.
Schmetzer made expected, wholesale changes to the starting lineup from the one that collected a win Wednesday in Dallas. The most significant was the return of captain Nico Lodeiro. The Uruguayan hasn’t started since the MLS Cup match due to a knee injury that needed surgery in May.
On the bench was center back Nouhou. The Sounders veteran hasn’t played since May due to international duty and an adductor injury.
The Sounders’ next match isn’t until Aug. 29 when they host the Portland Timbers at Lumen Field. MLS’s weeklong break is for Wednesday’s All-Star game vs. Mexico’s Liga MX stars in Los Angeles.
Seattle is sending a record six Sounders players. Midfielder Cristian Roldan was voted captain of the MLS team and forward Raul Ruidiaz also will participate in the skills challenge.
The win marked a farewell to Sounders assistant coach Djimi Traore, who accepted a similar position with a club in Europe.
“They did it for Djimi,” Schmetzer said. “They didn’t want to send him out on a bad note. … I’m going to help celebrate my good friend Djimi and enjoy this moment. It’s something not a lot of teams can do.”