AUSTIN, Texas — The Sounders FC botched their road trip, if only the game plan is evaluated.
Seattle wanted to return with two wins. Instead the club had a pair of 1-1 draws — one against Leon in the CONCACAF Champions League and the other Sunday in MLS play against Austin FC.
Yet, there’s bigger significance the Rave Green can pull from the outings. The obvious in Leon, Mexico, is the Sounders’ first trip to the CCL’s semifinals in a decade.
For Austin, it’s the story line of forward Will Bruin. The 12-year MLS veteran wanted to show he can stay healthy and contribute this season. A mission that strayed off course before the Sounders season even began.
Bruin, who signed a one-year contract extension in January, suffered a calf injury that kept him unavailable for selection to start the year. A run that stretched back to October 2021 when he suffered a right knee injury and needed arthroscopy surgery.
The grizzled Bruin returned to the lineup Sunday in Texas. And in the 43rd minute, he tumbled back on track.
Bruin kept pace with teammate Cristian Roldan to collect a feed at the mouth of goal, tapping in the score as he fell over his defender and into the net before a raucous crowd at Q2 Stadium.
The home side had Seattle under intense pressure since the opening kickoff, totaling three corner kicks before the 10-minute mark. The equalizer was a low, left-footed volley by midfielder Diego Fagundez in the 70th minute.
Austin, which combined for 10 goals in their opening two home matches of the season, had nine corner kicks over all and eight shots on-target. Sounders keeper Stefan Cleveland, making his first start since August 2021, had seven saves.
“It was loud back there,” Cleveland said of the 20,738 in attendance. “How I did this last year was doing mental reps of these games and being ready for this environment. Taking full concentration into each training so that when I have to do it for 90 minutes, it’s not the first time I’ve done it.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer started a veteran lineup with four changes from the starters who closed out the CCL series win against Leon on Thursday. Last year against Austin, the Sounders made MLS history by starting five teenagers.
Bruin was in place of forward Fredy Montero. The pair rotated in the 56th minute, Bruin playing limited minutes as part of the medical plan for his return.
Leo Chu slotted in for Jordan Morris on the left wing while midfielder Obed Vargas helped anchor the midfield alongside Joao Paulo. Cleveland was in goal for Stefan Frei, who injured his quad against Leon.
The Sounders remain without Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring), midfielder Jimmy Medranda (hamstring), defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade (ankle) and midfielder Nico Lodeiro (health and safety protocols).
Austin (2-1-1) had their full complement of players available for selection Sunday.
FIFA’s international break begins Monday. Morris (U.S.), Cristian (U.S.), Alex Roldan (El Salvador), Nouhou (Cameroon) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) were called up for their nation’s final World Cup qualifying matches. The USMNT’s quest begins Thursday in Mexico.
Seattle (1-2-1) will return to MLS play April 2 with a road match against Minnesota United FC.