By Zac Lee Rigg - LOS ANGELES, CA (Jan 26, 2013) US Soccer Players -- Will Bruin chuckled when the subject of Dominic Kinnear's hair came up. Someone had slapped a picture of Kinnear – back in his playing days, with the full-bodied frizzy hair's heady flow not hinting at the copious shedding to come – on the wall of the Houston Dynamo locker room during the 2012 season.
Bruin plans to be back in the BBVA Compass Stadium locker rooms on January 29th. Except he won't be in a Dynamo jersey. If all goes according to plan, Bruin will pull on a USA jersey for the first time in his career when the United States faces Canada in a friendly.
“It's going to be nice to play in Houston,” Bruin told a pair of reporters in the lobby of the team hotel in southern California. “I've got a year under my belt in that stadium so it's going to be a little advantage for me because I know the ins and outs of the stadium, the dimensions and stuff. I'll feel more comfortable there, and [playing] in front of Houston fans too will be fun if I get the opportunity to play.
“Hopefully I'll be able to get my first cap and that would be awesome to do it in front of the Houston fans.”
Bruin is in California for a three-week January training camp with an MLS-heavy roster. He earned the call up thanks to an improved sophomore season. The 6-foot-2 forward took over a starting role, joining the first XI 31 times in the regular season, and scoring 12 goals. In the playoffs he added four more goals to help the Dynamo to the MLS Cup final, where they lost to the LA Galaxy for the second year in a row.
Before flying to Los Angeles for the January camp, Bruin canvassed the advice of those in Houston who have played at this level: Kinnear, Brian Ching, fellow camp invitee Brad Davis, and former teammate Geoff Cameron.
“Brad said it's going to be a lot of running, a lot of fitness, and to just stay calm. Don't get overhyped for it,” Bruin said. “Another one was Geoff Cameron because he was kind of in my shoes last year, going into January camp, and he also just said to stay comfortable, don't try to do too much, just play as you always play. Relax and things will take care of themselves, but it's going to be a grind for about three weeks.”
The grind of incessant fitness work paid off in a small amount with two goals in a closed door scrimmage against Liga MX club Tijuana. Jurgen Klinsmann's charges faced a reserve squad from the Liga MX champions in preparation for the friendly against Canada. For the first goal, after combining at the top of the box, Juan Agudelo slid Bruin in, who one-timed his finish. For the second, right back Alfredo Morales crossed and Bruin slipped between the center backs to finish near the penalty spot.
“I played the second half, so the first-half team kind of wore them down,” Bruin said. “So I was able to get those goals. It's definitely a good confidence booster. It's good to make a good first impression, that's always important. I'm just trying to control what I control. Scoring is what I'm supposed to do, and just make the decisions tough on Jurgen.”
Klinsmann is getting first or fresh looks at most of the players in camp. The former Germany coach plans on bringing six to nine members of the current roster to Honduras for the first game of the Hexagonal, the last round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Thus far, Klinsmann likes what he sees of Bruin.
“Will is a team player, is focused 24/7, and is a great finisher,” Klinsmann told reporters from the training ground at the Home Depot Center. “We're trying now to give him another level, more fast-paced rhythm again, which is normal. The national team is always a faster environment and he adjusted to it right away. So far he's done really well.”
The 23-year-old feels he's ready for the challenge of adjusting to the pace at the international stage. After attending Indiana University, he's had two years as a professional to gel with the speed of the game in Major League Soccer. He clicked last season, especially in the playoffs.
“You've got to play quicker, every level,” the St. Louis native explained. “From college to Houston you had to play quicker and from Houston to being here for my first camp you've got to play quicker. You don't have as much time on the ball, you don't have as much space in the box. It's something I'm adjusting to. I'm still going to adjust to it. I'm sure with experience and opportunities I'll adjust.”
His first chance to shift into the increased speed of the international game will come on Tuesday against the Canucks. For Bruin, chances such as this one – like hairstyles – are fleeting.
Zac Lee Rigg is a Senior Editor of Goal.com.
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