What dimension does Danny Cruz bring to the Philadelphia Union lineup?

It isn't always sexy, but Cruz finds a way to get the job done

Cruz celebration

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

It’s alternative, appears quirky and isn’t always sexy.

But this season for the Union – it just works.

Having midfielder Danny Cruz run the right side of the pitch for Philadelphia has been an enigma to some – given other names on the Union’s roster – but it’s been an obvious choice for a technical staff that sees beyond the unconventional nature of Cruz’ game and has instead decided to focus on the results they bring.

Over a nine game stretch, Cruz’ ability to use his speed to make long runs down the flank and create opportunities directly created a pair of Union goals against Columbus and D.C. United. On Saturday, he contributed two of his own with back-to-back stunners against Seattle, capping a man of the match performance; which has later provided consideration for MLS' Goal of the Week

VOTE: Danny Cruz for MLS Goal of the Week

On Wednesday, EA Sports, makers of the ever-popular FIFA 13 video game series named Cruz to its "Ultimate Team of the Week"

“Danny has been one of our most effective players,” Union manager John Hackworth said during a recent press conference. “He has been one of our most effective players in possession and has been one of our most creative players in getting entries into the final third of the field, specifically the penalty area.

Hackworth added: 

“In addition to that, he brings it every single game. He is the type of player you need to have in this league to be successful. There is no question you need some speed and he brings that, but he brings a competitiveness that is second to none.”

It’s hard to question Cruz’ toughness and it’s been that grit that has found him in the starting XI each week. What the coaching staff will also tell you Cruz does well is force the opposition to produce with a player that can match Cruz’ speed and abilities. Manning the right flank, Cruz has a propensity to use the angles and passing lanes given to create numerous chances

And any player will tell you a chance is all you need.

Cruz will be the first to tell you that he is constantly working on areas of his game that need improvement. He’s also a force on the training pitch and that toughness has been known to get under the skin of fellow teammates.

“Just to be able to contribute to this group of guys, I couldn’t be happier,” Cruz said following his offensive outburst Saturday. “The coaches have faith in me and that is something that has continued to drive me…hopefully in the upcoming weeks I can continue to contribute.”

Much of soccer is being in the right place in the right time.

Union forward Jack McInerney is the perfect example in his ability to find himself in great positions to score week in and week out. One could even attest on the club’s second goal Saturday that had the crossbar been a few inches taller McInerney could have netted his seventh of the year and not Cruz matching his entire total from last season in a matter of a minute. Both players are similar in the sense that the timing on their runs is solid and that over nine matches this season, both are netting results.

“You have players like Keon [Daniel], Michael [Farfan] and Kleberson who are better playing in tighter spaces and they don’t like to make those runs, they don’t stretch an opposing defense,” said Hackworth. “We need [versatile] players in our midfield and it would be great to have a couple of them that would do what Danny does.”

And what that is exactly?

“What Danny does is he is very effective in stretching an opposing defense and getting in behind,” continued Hackworth. “It might be one of the reasons why he has less touches on the ball, but when I look at the numbers we use to [gauge where guys are in different statistics], his effectiveness in his touches is significantly better than most of our midfielders right now.

Union technical director Rob Vartughian echoed Hackworth's statements and added:

"Danny plays with an energy and urgency that make him very difficult to deal with.  He plays every play at a sprint and that commitment makes teams uncomfortable."

Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com