Danny Cruz steps off the training pitch and his practice jersey, shorts, hair – everything – are dripping wet.
That comes from hard work.
That comes from deep within Cruz.
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As the Philadelphia Union midfielder prepares to enter his sixth season in Major League Soccer, his work ethic is at an all-time high. Cruz looks around and sees competition everywhere. And that’s just fine with him. He revels in competition and isn’t afraid of elevating his level of preparation and intensity at any given moment.
“I always say, ‘Bring it on,’” Cruz said after a recent training session. “I’ve always been the guy working as hard as I could. It got me into the league and has kept me in the league. It’s a blessing to have played five seasons and I hope it goes a whole lot longer. To do that, I have to keep working and improving on my game. I’m so happy to be here with the Union and I know to stay here, I need to earn my spot.”
It’s been a tough offseason mentally and emotionally for Cruz as his beloved grandmother passed away.
“I know she’s looking down on me and smiling,” Cruz said. “It’s been hard on me because of my relationship with her. I’m going to honor her. I’m OK talking about her even though it hurts so much. She was my biggest fan.”
No player performs on the pitch with more passion than Cruz. He hustles at all times and gets dirty. It may not always be the prettiest sight, but the effort is always evident.
Cruz plays the same way that he trains.
“I think it’s contagious,” said Union defender Ray Gaddis. “Danny never gives up on a play, much the same way like me. I think the guys see that and it can help. Having that fire to keep going and never stop is what you need. You can make a play when something may not be there because of that hustle. Personally, I love it.”
Cruz has nine career goals and 11 assists with the Union, D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo. He played in the MLS Cup title match with the Dynamo in 2011 in a 1-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy.
“I think the playoffs are so far down the road, but I really like the talent on this club,” Cruz said. “We were so close last season and had some tough breaks go against us. There were at least three games and maybe six to nine points which could have changed our course. But you can’t go back and rewrite history. We didn’t come up with enough points. I think the franchise made some changes and it will only help us. I’m excited to see it all play out.
“I think this is going to be a hungry club and I know that I’m very hungry to go back to the playoffs. For now, we have to come together in preseason and start the season off on the right foot. I like the chemistry that we have and the direction that we’re headed.”
After a recent training session, Cruz was headed to the locker room for a quick rest, lunch and then another session.
“I like hard work,” Cruz said. “It’s the only way I know. It’s kept me in the league and I’m going to keep training and playing the same way.”
What do you expect from Danny Cruz this season? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org