Playing with a brace on his arm that affected movement and balance wasn’t too great a hindrance for Will Bruin. The 27-year-old forward headed in his fourth goal of the season to give the Sounders a 1-0 win over Bruin’s former club, the Houston Dynamo, at CenturyLink Field Sunday, Seattle’s third consecutive win at home.
The win redeemed a 2-1 loss on the road at Houston to start the season that caught the defending MLS Champions off guard. In the rematch, Seattle (5-6-4, 19 points) made 639 passes against 160 for Houston (7-6-2, 23 points).
The breakthrough came in the 69th minute, when Seattle bullied its way into the attacking third and picked up a loose ball. Cristian Roldan swung in a cross from the right side to find Bruin inside the box for a lunging header and the decider.
“Cristian put the ball right on my head,” Bruin said, smiling. “If I had missed that, I would have started questioning my career.”
Still, the brace, designed to keep Bruin from over-extending his dominant left arm, was an issue.
“I don’t have my full strength at pushing off and holding guys,” Bruin said. “I’m a lefty, which is weird, because I’m right footed. So it was kind of different. I was trying to use my whole body and my right arm.
“The first few minutes, I could tell (Houston’s defenders) were going out of their way to try and grab it, pull it, try to throw me off my game. It was a tough battle. You try to grind them down and annoy them all game, and I knew I would get my chance.”
The chance was a sorely needed conversion. Seattle has struggled to create dangerous opportunities this season. In the first half, the Sounders mustered four shots, none on target, despite controlling 70 percent of the possession. And they are temporarily without Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, off to duty with USMNT.
After Bruin’s goal, he climbed to his feet in the net and gave the crowd two thumbs up, firing up the 40,258 in attendance.
Bruin nearly added another in the 78th minute, after heading a cross from Aaron Kovar toward goal, only to be denied by Houston keeper Tyler Deric.
The appearance for Kovar, who subbed on for Brad Evans in the 54th minute, was his second in the past 11 months and first this season. Kovar fractured his collarbone in a collision with teammate Oniel Fisher in July, then injured his groin, requiring extensive rehab.
Kovar was too in the moment to reflect on the journey back to fitness, but admitted that his first game back had been a focal point in rehab.
“I’ve had to learn these first few years that you just can’t get too low when things are bad, and when things are good, you can’t get too high,” Kovar said. “Things can change for the better or you can lose it all in one second. You just try and appreciate every moment you have.”
The next opportunity for Kovar may come June 13, in a midweek U.S. Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers at Starfire Stadium. League play will wait until after the international break, where the USMNT has crucial World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
The Sounders can be pleased. They have three shutouts in their past four games, and three straight wins at home heading in to the break.
Coach Brian Schmetzer will take the time to reflect and learn from the season’s opening months.
“We’ll focus on the first part of the season,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll do a little reflection on what we did well, what we can improve on, try and get them a little time off so when they come back we can fine-tune some things. It was definitely a big homestand for us.”