Friendly provides valuable opportunity
Reprinted from CCHooks.com.
Lance Berkman had a plastic bat in his hand by the time he was 2 years old.
That's how the story begins for a majority of professional athletes, and that is what makes Danny Cruz so remarkable.
Cruz did not begin playing soccer until his freshman year of high
school, when most players have been entrenched in competitive play for
years. His athleticism and speed helped him quickly adapt to the game,
but he was still catching up on the technical aspects. He spent extra
hours on the field for training sessions in high school, and they paid
Only four years after starting to play soccer, he made the United
States national team roster for the Under-17 World Cup in South Korea.
Already on track to play football in college, Cruz had to decide during
his senior year in high school which sport to pursue.
"I had to make a tough decision as to if I wanted to be a soccer
player or be a football player," Cruz said. "I decided to make the
switch to soccer and put my entire life into it."
After three semesters and two soccer seasons at UNLV, Cruz was
selected as a Generation adidas player to join Major League Soccer.
Generation adidas identifies up-and-coming young Americans and
guarantees them a Major League Soccer contract.
Cruz was drafted by the Dynamo at only 19 years old, a mere six
years after starting to play soccer. In his first season for the Dynamo
in 2009, he appeared in six MLS matches and earned most of his minutes
for the Dynamo in international competitions and exhibition games. The
majority of the 2009 season was spent with the Under-20 World Cup team
in Egypt under veteran coach Thomas Rongen. Both World Cup experiences
helped to shape him as a player.
"Whatever age you are, whether it is Under-17, Under-20, Olympics,
or the full team, anytime you get to represent your country in a
tournament, that prestige is an unexplainable feeling," Cruz said. "I
was fortunate for [coaches] Thomas Rongen and John Hackworth. They
helped get me here today."
MLS teams used to have a reserve league so younger players could
play competitive games. With the dissolution of the reserve league
prior to the 2009 season, international competitions and exhibition
matches like the Ryan-Sanders Shootout in Corpus Christi on June 10 have become of utmost importance
to young players such as Cruz.
"For us to be able to get games like this is really important,
because you can train all you want, but nothing prepares you more for a
league game than playing in your own games," Cruz said. "I am looking
forward to it. These kinds of games are very good for our development."
The Dynamo friendly against the Laredo Heat at Corpus Christi's Whataburger Field, presented by Amigo Energy, comes
as Major League Soccer takes a break of almost three weeks for the
World Cup, so keeping players in game fitness is a priority for head
coach Dominic Kinnear.
"I think this game comes at a good time at that part of the season
where maybe guys haven't played a ton since preseason," Kinnear said.
"It gives them a chance to play 90 minutes, and we are very pleased
Cruz's hunger to learn and improve his game is evident when he
discusses looking to the coaches and veterans for guidance. There is
one veteran player in particular he undeniably resembles in style of
play and tenacity: outside midfielder Brian Mullan.
"It's no secret that a lot of people compare me to Brian Mullan, and
I look up to him to see how he does things," Cruz said. "If I can make
a career as successful as his, I see that as a success. That is my
Entering his second MLS season with two youth World Cups already
under his belt, Cruz has a bright future ahead of him but remains
focused on the task at hand to help the Dynamo win this season.
"Any minutes that I get, whether it is five minutes, 20 minutes, or
30 minutes, I want to go in and make a difference in a game," Cruz
said. "My short-term goal is to help us continue to win. If I go in and
I do that, then I have done my job."