It only took 16 minutes for Will Bruin to get off the mark in the 2013 Major League Soccer playoffs. He finished off a neat interchange with Ricardo Clark on top of the Montreal Impact penalty area to score what ended up being the game-winning goal.
Late on, he sealed the 3-0 win by winning two one-on-one battles in quick succession, out-running Matteo Ferrari to a loose ball and cutting back on Jeb Brovsky before calmly slotting the ball past Troy Perkins in goal. The Dynamo cruised past Montreal in the Eastern Conference play-in game on Thursday, setting up a matchup with the Supporters’ Shield-winning New York Red Bulls.
Heading into the playoffs, Bruin hadn’t scored since Sept. 28 against the New England Revolution, which was five league games ago. The Dynamo missed him down the stretch but did just enough to get into the playoffs without Bruin scoring, hoping he would pick his momentum back up in the playoffs.
And did he ever.
Helped by a porous Impact back line and three red cards, Bruin ended the match with four shots on target and lingered around the Montreal penalty area all night, dropping into midfield sporadically to find the ball at his feet.
Oscar Boniek García also had a good game on the right flank, drawing and finishing a first-half penalty on the dribble through the middle of the field. Ricardo Clark also looked good in attack, pushing forward from his traditional holding role to assist the first goal and create multiple other opportunities.
On the other side of the field, it’s difficult to pick out any standout performances. Three of the 14 players who saw the field ended up leaving early with red cards, and the rest never got any sort of rhythm going.
Houston’s performance was the kind of dominance that turns a play-in game into a momentum creator. Playing an extra game can be a burden on players’ legs, but it can also begin a run that carries a team to the MLS Cup final — such as the run Houston made last year.