No current Houston Dynamo player has driven fans to as broad a range of adoration and hatred as Will Bruin over the past two seasons. Bruin was the hero in 2012 when he scored 16 goals, including 4 goals in the Dynamo’s playoff run to the MLS Cup Final. He was the goat in 2013 when he missed sitters more often than he scored goals, such as the three squandered opportunities against the Columbus Crew in the first 2:17 of the clip below.
While some players can remain fan favorites even when performing poorly, Bruin does not have the greatest relationship with fans. He is generally awkward in meet and greet situations, and his twitter antics (as well as those of his girlfriend) have rubbed many the wrong way.
Therefore, it was no surprise that the Dynamo Twitterverse exploded following the announcement this past week that the Dynamo were seeking to sign Bruin (and Kofi Sarkodie) to a contract extension.
— HoustonDynamo (@HoustonDynamo) February 20, 2014
With some exceptions, most Dynamo fans reacted with incredulity that Bruin would be considered worthy of an extension after a sub-par 2013 and a slow start in the pre-season. Instead fans would like to see Bruin earn his way to a new contract during 2014. This is a sensible point of view and not unusual in sports following a sub-par season, so why are the Dynamo considering an extension and is Bruin truly not deserving of one?
Looking at Bruin’s career shooting statistics provides some sense of how good his 2012 was and the drop off in 2013. The table below shows shots taken, shots on goal, goals scored, shot accuracy (percentage of shots on goal) and shooting efficiency (percentage of shots that actually resulted in a goal).
As the numbers indicate, Bruin’s shot accuracy dropped by 12% in 2013. This stat by itself is only of partial use, however. Shots taken from 30 yards out, for example, are far less accurate than shots taken from under 30 yards regardless of how good the striker is. If Bruin’s average shot profile shifted from closer to goal to further away from goal, then you would expect a natural decrease in the percentage of shots on target.
Obtaining detailed shot data for seasons prior to 2013 can be difficult, however we can look at 2013 data and compare to other strikers to assess how good or bad Bruin’s accuracy really was. Of the 106 shots Bruin took in the 2013 season, 77% were taken from inside the area according to Sqwaka. Camilo Sanvezzo of Vancouver led the league in goals scored last season with 27. He took 123 shots during 2013, only 45% of which were inside the area. Federico Higuain took 30% of his shots from inside the area, Mike Magee took 61% and Marco Di Vaio took 56%.
Bruin is not a player who is generally going to create for himself and make spectacular shots from far out. He is a bit more of a poacher, the type of player who is taking most of his shots from relatively close range as he did in 2013. That he took such a high percentage of his shots from inside the box yet put only 32% of those shots on target is cause for concern, but the far more important stat is shooting efficiency.
In 2013, Bruin scored on only 9.4% of the shots he took. This is nearly identical to the return he had in his rookie season, 9.3%. In 2012, Bruin fared much better with a shooting efficiency of 16.7%. The top strikers in the world typically have shooting efficiencies over 20%. Bruin will never be confused for a world class striker, but a shooting efficiency of over 16% would place him amongst the best strikers in MLS.
So the key question is whether 2012 was the aberration or 2013. If you believe that 2013 was the aberration, as the Dynamo clearly do, then you move to extend Bruin now when the cost is likely lower than what it would be at the end of 2014 if he reverted to 2012 like form.
There is, however, another reason why the Dynamo might move to extend Bruin now related to one of the many opaque rules in MLS. In 2013, MLS revealed the existence of something called retention funds as part of the MLS “Core Players” initiative. In essence retention funds work similarly to the designated player rule wherein only a portion of the player’s salary counts towards the salary cap.
Each team is allocated a certain amount of retention funds to use for re-signing Core Players prior to the expiration of their contracts. The exact criteria for identifying Core Players is not public, however it is believed to be players under a certain age with a minimum number of minutes played per season. It is reasonable to assume that Bruin (as well as Sarkodie) would qualify.
Both Bruin and Sarkodie came off their Generation Adidas status this season which means their salaries count against the cap. By extending them now, it is very likely the Dynamo can gain some cap relief both this season and moving forward which better positions them to make other moves.
This is the piece that fans do not see as the lack of transparency in MLS makes it difficult for fans to understand the financial inner workings. From a pure performance standpoint, Bruin does not deserve an extension at this stage, particularly given than he has shown no indication during the pre-season that his accuracy is improved over 2013. For me, Bruin does not do enough either off the ball or on the ball to compensate for inaccuracy in his shooting. However, from a business standpoint if the Dynamo can secure a player who is capable of scoring 10 goals a season at a reduced impact to the salary cap, then extending him now makes sense.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
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