Will Bruin may only be a rookie but he is quickly becoming a star in Major League Soccer by earning MLS Player of the Week honors and performing unusual celebrations.
The St. Louis native and former star leads the Houston Dynamo with four goals on the young season including a hat trick against D.C. United on April 29.
"Getting that first one at home early in the game is huge for any home team because they ended up tying the game," Bruin said. "The second goal before halftime was huge for momentum and the third one gave us that extra cushion."
Bruin became only the fourth rookie to ever score a hat trick in a game and joins fellow St. Louisan and De Smet Spartan alum Pat Noonan in that category. Bruin also broke Noonan's goal record at DeSmet with 102 on his career.
Bruin busted out a now cult-following celebration called "The Dancing Bear" after his first goal in the D.C. United game. Bruin got the nickname from teammates and coaches after a practice.
"We were doing finishing drills in practice and the coaches thought I looked a Dancing Bear," Bruin laughed. "Brian Ching told me if I scored this week then we'll do the dancing bear and we'll let people be the judge of how it turned out."
The public has responded positively as the dance has inspired fans to come dressed as bears to Dynamo games and even produced a "Bear Cave" section at Robertson Stadium in Houston.
The Dynamo drafted Bruin 11th overall at the MLS SuperDraft on January 13. The Dancing Bear netted his first professional goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 10. Bruin has made the physical and mental adjustments of playing in the MLS.
"All the older guys helped me feel welcome by the team and the transition has been toughest mentally since I've grown up watching all these guys," Bruin said. "It's awesome the coaches have faith in me to start me out there and I'm just learning every game gaining more and more experience."
Bruin played three seasons at Indiana after graduating from De Smet and playing four years under legendary coach Greg Vitello.
"Coach Vitello has probably played the biggest role in becoming the player that I am and not just on the field," Bruin said. "Everything he's taught on the field goes together with life like how you carry yourself and going about your business and being humble."
"Coming into high school he had the body and the tools of a senior when he was just a freshman," Vitello said. "He learned how to use his body and take the hard knocks and took the attitude that he's going to have to play harder to become a better soccer player."
Bruin isn't the only St. Louisan propelling the Dynamo. grad and midfielder Brad Davis leads the league with six assists including assists on two of Bruin's goals against D.C. United. Also on the coaching staff is Oakville high school graduate Steve Ralston.
"Sometimes being a smart player is just as good as being a super athletic player," Davis said. "I may not be the fastest or most athletic guy but I feel like I'm a start soccer player and my technical ability makes me comfortable playing the game."
The "left-footed David Beckham" was awarded MLS Player of the Month for April. It was the first of such an honor in his veteran career. Davis joined the Dynamo in 2006 after enjoying an All-Star season for the San Jose Earthquakes the year before. He led Chaminade to consecutive Final Four appearances in 1998 and 1999 and was the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year. Later this month, he'll be part of the first class inducted into Chaminade's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Davis and Bruin talk about St. Louis and experiences at their respective colleges of SLU and Indiana. The two St. Louisans complement each other perfectly with Davis playing perfect balls and Bruin finishing them into the back of the net.
"Every time Brad gets the ball I know he's going to give me an opportunity to score," Bruin said. "He's the best player I've ever played with in terms of giving me an opportunity to score."
Davis credits his coach at Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, Tom Howe, for his personal success along with the success of other St. Louis soccer professionals who played for him.
"He is one of the best youth coaches in America and the guy lives and breathes soccer and truly cared about us and wanted us to get better," Davis said. "Obviously it shows because he has coached a lot of good players that went on the pros or got full scholarships to play in college."
Howe went on to form a new club called the Woodson City Rangers in 2010 shortly after Scott Gallagher merged with St. Louis Soccer Club and Metro United to form the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club.
Vitello would like to see the soccer programs in St. Louis revised in order to generate more professional soccer players from around the area, but the ones who have made it to the pros have succeeded.
"St. Louis has a huge soccer hot-bed," Davis said. "There have been some good players who have come through this league and they are still playing so it's good to see their faces around the league at the professional level."
The Dynamo are 3-3-3 on the season.