Danny Cruz is one of the most passionate players in Major League Soccer.
His intensity, emotion and drive are evident by how he plays every time he steps on the pitch. No player throws his body around more than Cruz. He’ll do anything to help the Philadelphia Union win.
But in a recent match, that emotion was taken to a whole new level.
A father coming to his son’s MLS match isn’t all that uncommon.
But this was a much different case.
Al Cruz, a soldier, has had a number of tours of duty overseas and had never watched his son Danny play at PPL Park.
“I kind of got a little choked up early before the game,” Cruz said when asked about that moment this week. “He had never been able to see me play here. He hasn’t seen me play in a really long time. I haven’t seen him in about six, seven months. I had no idea he was coming to town until (Friday), so it was even more of a surprise.”
On Military Appreciation Night, Al Cruz was honored before the match with the crowd roaring with applause.
“The national anthem was probably the most touching part for me,” Cruz said. “I could see him from where I was standing, and it definitely gets you going and it adds a little bit to the game. The game meant a little bit more to me...to be able to see him in the crowd wearing my jersey sitting next to my fiancée and my best friend, I know times like that he’ll never forget. And those are things that I’m proud of and I take with me.”
Early in the 3-3 draw, Colorado’s Shane O’Neill fouled Cruz, who limped off the field in pain.
It didn’t take long for Cruz to get back up and into the match. He had to get back up.
“At first I was like, ‘There’s no way I can keep going,’” Cruz said. “I’d be lying if I said he (Al Cruz) didn’t go through my head. He definitely did. He doesn’t ever get to see me play, and I tried to push through. I was definitely emotional after that. I got a little teary-eyed, more because I was frustrated and was in pain. But it definitely pushes you through it.”
Watching as his father was honored before the match was a moment Cruz will never forget.
It will be etched his mind forever.
“It’s a big deal for my dad to see his name on the back of my jersey, to come on the field and be respected and honored,” Cruz said. “Guys like that, they don’t need it. But when they get it, they appreciate it. I’m really proud of him, and I know that he was proud of me.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com