Sunday's showdown against D.C. United has Union midfielder Cruz amped unlike any other
He’s not going to go as far to saying that the anticipation is driving him crazy, but Danny Cruz is amped for the Union’s next opponent in D.C. United.
Having been on both sides of what has become a deep-seeded rivalry, Cruz knows that Sunday’s nationally televised matchup (5 p.m., ESPN2) will continue the tale of what has become a marked match on the Union calendar – and not just for the fans. Cruz appeared in 16 matches with D.C. United in 2012 before joining the Union via trade last August.
“I love everything about this rivalry,” said Cruz following a training session earlier this week. “I think there’s no secret there is bad blood between the clubs and it’s good. I mean it’s good for the league; it’s good for both organizations that everybody is so passionate about it from the coaching staff, to the players, to the fans, to even the ownership.”
D.C. United has struggled this season, posting a 1-4-1 (four points) record behind just two goals. However, United coach Ben Olsen told media this week that his club’s record hasn’t diminished their spirits and that “right now, we have a very narrow focus and that focus is winning on the weekend.”
“You better believe we are going to get there best game of the year this weekend, said Cruz when asked about United. “They are struggling a little bit right now, but they are not to be taken lightly. But I think if we go in there and play the way that we know how to play and be us then we can come away with a positive result. There is going to be a lot of battling. So you talk about me getting injured before, you know if I’m chosen this weekend, I am definitely going to continue to play the way I always do.”
The toughness that Cruz exudes is noticeable every time he steps on the field. He approaches every tackle with a fury that sometimes it’s amazing he’s still standing after the collision.
But Cruz doesn’t plan to change his playing style for anyone anytime soon and there is a distinct reason for that…
“A coach that I had in my career told me if you ever pull out of a tackle you are going to be the one getting hurt,” Cruz explained. “And I learned the hard way… my first year in the league [with the Houston Dynamo] I broke my nose that way, trying to go a little bit softer and not getting into it as hard and that’s how people get hurt. So I go into every tackle just strong, hoping I don’t come out hurting anyone or myself. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, but I certainly don’t go looking for it, it’s just I am an intense person, I’m an intense player.”
And the perfect player for the Union to have at their disposal for a match in which it doesn’t take much to have the fury between these two sides bubble over. These matches have even gotten overheated in preseason. In February, Cruz suffered a head butt at the hands of United designated player Dwayne De Rosario, an infraction that found De Rosario fined and suspended for D.C.’s first two matches of the season.
Cruz noted that he has spoken to De Rosario since the incident but this will be the first time the two will meet face-to-face.
But as far as Cruz is concerned, it’s a non-issue.
“As far as De Ro and I there won’t be [any bad blood],” said Cruz. “I’m sure I will shake his hand and tell him good luck and he will do the same. He really is a class guy on and off the field and it was just something that happened in the heat of the moment. As I said, I have spoken to him since and he’s just someone that is so passionate about what he does even as his career continues to roll through. So there no bad blood for me.”
Cruz then added:
“But I’m not going to lie – I certainly want to go out and win this game more than I have the last four or five games, that’s for sure.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org