While the Houston Dynamo made their move up the standings in the last month, two of their key players from earlier this season sat on the sidelines and watched.
The Dynamo lost midfielder Danny Cruz and forward Will Bruin to injuries in late July, but both players have now returned to training. Houston sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, but they will likely receive a boost in their hunt for the playoffs as Cruz and Bruin eye a return to game action in Thursday's away reserve match against the Colorado Rapids.
“As the week went on, we encouraged them and are hoping to get them some time Thursday," heach coach Dominic Kinnear said.
Both players admitted after Tuesday’s training that sitting out while the team was going through a strong run was difficult.
“It’s been a long process with two injuries this year,” Cruz said. “It’s going OK, but I’m just trying to get healthy and get 100 percent and not be dumb about it. I can’t go out and not go full speed; it has to be all or nothing. I’m getting there and hoping to get a few minutes against Colorado, but I don’t think it’s there where I can go the full 90.”
Both players are happy to be back in action, but the time out was not lost on them. Bruin admitted to passing the time by taking the opportunity to learn and “take notes” on how to improve when he does return to the field.
“I’ve been watching a lot since I’ve been out,” Bruin said. “I’ve been watching forwards at my position, and I’ve been watching more and more about how important it is to hold the ball up top … so that’s one thing I will be focusing on as we get ready to make our last push towards the postseason.”
Houston has two huge Eastern Conference matchups ahead, with visits to Sporting Kansas City (Sept. 10) and the Columbus Crew (Sept. 14) looming. But for the moment, the focus turns to Thursday’s reserve match and a Sunday night friendly against Monterrey, a game which could mark Bruin’s and Cruz’s return to the first team.
“Most of all, I’m looking to get back into game shape, keep training this week and, hopefully, come back and have another good week of training and get back for Kansas City and Columbus,” Bruin said.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.