For Cruz, the role coaching Michael Schwenke into his high school soccer tryouts hit very close to home when Cruz was approached late in the Dynamo’s 2010 season. He agreed to participate and invited Schwenke to meet him at the Dynamo’s final home game of the season against the Seattle Sounders. From there, the experience took off.
“I really enjoyed getting along with Michael and learning about his family, and it was a bonus that it was in my home state,” Cruz said. “Our families come from similar backgrounds, and I enjoyed it. It was great to help a kid try to achieve a goal that he didn’t think he’d be able to do.”
Cruz, who went to Ironwood High School in Glendale, returned to the Phoenix area to coach Schwenke all the way through tryouts for the varsity and JV soccer teams at Dobson High School. True to his own roots, he emphasized fitness and hard work in his coaching sessions.
“It was a fun experience for me to try and coach somebody,” Cruz said. “It was definitely a difficult experience, trying to be patient and work through a lot of adversity, but it was a good time.”
The bond that developed between Schwenke and Cruz was never more evident than when Cruz was called away due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, bringing in Chabala as a replacement just days before tryouts concluded.
“It was tough, because I tried to emphasize that it was going to be he and me through the end, and we were going to work as hard as we could,” Cruz said. “To have to go back on that and say, ‘Listen, I’m here for you and we did this together, but work has me leaving,’ was very difficult.”
Cruz’s training stint with Nottingham Forest and Generation adidas – a previously scheduled commitment – left both parties a little emotional.
“I’m an emotional guy, and he got teary-eyed when I was saying our last goodbye, and I started feeling like tears might come down too,” Cruz said. “It wasn’t easy whatsoever to go every single day and then pick up and leave, but it was a learning experience for both of us.”
With Cruz forced to fly overseas, he brought in teammate Mike Chabala for a little assistance to help Schwenke through the final stages of his tryouts.
“I was the closer — they brought in the lefty!” Chabala joked. “It was Danny’s show, and obviously he had to take off, so he needed somebody to fill in. Obviously Michael was in a tough situation, trying to go from limited athletic experience to really making a lot of progress. It was a positive experience hopefully for Michael and definitely for both Danny and myself.”
Without spoiling the show’s ending, both Cruz and Chabala walked away with a new friend and a new appreciation for the finer points of reality TV.
“Everything you see was just me being me and him being him, and that was the best part about it,” Cruz said. “That was the most fun: I didn’t have to change who I was or anything like that. It was a goal that we wanted to achieve together, and although it was difficult, we did our best.”
According to MTV, the episode will re-air at the following times:
Tuesday, Feb. 8 11 a.m. CT
Thursday, Feb. 10 2 p.m. CT
Sunday, Feb. 13 5 a.m. CT
Sunday, Feb. 13 2 p.m. CT