Will Bruin did a little bit of everything Saturday night, include be a prophet.
Before the eventual 3-2 win over the Colorado Rapids, Bruin called a goal for his on-again, off-again strike partner, Giles Barnes. And for the first time since May 16, that came true.
Barnes scored the second of three goals in the game and combined on the tally with Bruin. The strikers combined for Barnes’ goal and were credited with two assists each. As they stay alive in the playoff race, keeping those two on the same page and striking will go a long way towards possible success.
“I told him he was going to score tonight. I told him he was going to go kill a corner flag but he didn’t do it,” Bruin said of Barnes. “The way we set up sometimes he draws underneath. He likes to get the ball at his feet and lately he’s been getting it in our half. I’ve been telling him, ‘Just stay high, just stay high; the ball will come to us.’ The further up the field he is, the better off we are. If we can keep it going like this we’re going to score some goals.”
Barnes’ trek from May 16 to now spanned over four months and 13 games in MLS. It also included a big role in Jamaica’s run to the Gold Cup final and a stint at the Copa America. There’s no question all of that work has taken a toll on his mental and physical make-up. And as he’s settled back in and been deployed all over the field for Houston, he's found goals hard to come by.
Until now, that is. Saturday, his fortune changed in the 24th minute when he slotted home his seventh goal of the season.
“It’s huge to get his confidence going. He’s going to be big these last few games,” said Houston center back David Horst. “We need goals and [Giles] and Will need to provide those goals. So for him to get back on the scoresheet and get his confidence going is going to be great for what we’re trying to do.”
On the other side of his success was Bruin. As Barnes hit the goal column, Bruin appeared in the middle of seemingly every Dynamo move forward. Holding the ball up, moving it around and combining with his teammates, Bruin had one of his best all-around games of the season. That's even despite the fact that Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin stoned him twice in the second half.
“Will has been fantastic these past few weeks,” Horst said. “He’s been battling some big guys up there and tonight’s no different. The more he can do that the better we’ll be. He got some assists tonight and he’s gotten some goals recently so if he can keep that going forward I’ll love him for that.”
It wasn’t all good for Houston, however. They gave up two goals, one of which came just before the half; in fact it was self-inflicted, as Raúl Rodríguez helped a Vicente Sanchez shot on goal. Also, while Houston played well, the Portland Timbers kept their lead on the club with a win.
Still, Houston has now won back-to-back games for the second time this season, with Bruin and Barnes playing at a high level and leading the line for an attack that looked as dangerous as it has all season.
“We just saw Portland won as well, so there is no let up at all. We have to get three points out of every game,” Barnes said. “When we’ve got our team healthy we can beat anybody in the league. We’ve shown that all season. We’re so confident in ourselves when we’re healthy. We have everything going for us.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com