Newest addition Cruz great fit for Union
To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
CHESTER, Pa. -- Introducing midfielder Danny Cruz to the media on Friday, coach John Hackworth gushed over the talented 22-year-old and his potential impact on his young, struggling Union.
It was clear by his glow that when Hackworth moved striker Lionard Pajoy to DC United for Cruz on Thursday that he didn't just trade for a good player, he stole one.
“[DC United] Coach [Ben] Olsen and I were joking on the phone that it would be an interesting one, no matter what,” Hackworth said, describing the trade call. “We wished each other all the best and said one of us will be happy and one of us will be sad. I’d bet that I’ll be the happy one.”
Adding a talented and experienced midfielder to the mix will improve almost any team. But for Cruz, who played under Hackworth and beside Sheanon Williams and Zac MacMath on the United States U-17 National Team, the move couldn’t have been to a better situation or under a better coach, adding to the probability of big success.
“It’s a life-changing move for anybody, but I don’t think I could have gone to a better team,” Cruz, who helped the Houston Dynamo 2011 MLS Cup Finals, said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play for coach Hackworth when I was younger. I’m very comfortable with him as a coach, as a person and I know a lot of guys in the locker room. So as far as transitioning, it’s going to take a little bit of time, but I don’t feel uncomfortable. I’m excited to get going.
“I’m very comfortable already. I am a little nervous, but it’s more excitement than nerves.”
Raving about his new coach and team, Cruz announced his excitement to play under Hackworth once again.
“My career started with him,” Cruz said. “Wanting to become a professional soccer player started with the under-17 team and made me feel like it could work. I’ve learned so much from him. I’m still learning and feel like I’m getting better. Who better to help me continue that than someone who helped me start. I’m looking for to it.”
The Cruz deal was attractive to the Union for two reasons. First is the seamless transition Cruz could make, because of his familiarity with Hackworth and other players on the club. The second is his high-quality MLS experience.
“Knowing I’d be bringing in a player that I didn’t need an adjustment period with, who knew me and I knew him, makes it easier,” Hackworth said. “But I want to make sure we distinguish the fact that Danny has had an unbelievable career so far in the MLS. That was the most important aspect of the whole thing. He was a key player for the Houston Dynamo last year and he torched us every time we played him. We have a proven player in Danny. He is a young guy with a lot of potential, and the fact that we have past experience with each other should make the transition easier.”
Even more of a perfect fit, Hackworth sees his new player as an integral part of their offensive plan. Cruz, who has one goal in 16 games this season, played as a striker under Hackworth with the National Team and will play on the high left side of the 4-3-3, beside primary striker Jack McInerney and Freddy Adu.
“Danny is a very versatile player,” Hackworth said. “When he was younger, he played for me as a forward. I think it’s important to note that our thought as a staff is that he has potential to be a goal scorer. At the same time, he can play on the right or left side, and in our formation, the 4-3-3.
“I think Danny fits well into our system right away.”
Despite all the positives he seems to bring with him, his size could be questioned on the front line. Standing at 5-foot-8, Cruz will be next to the 5-7 Adu and 5-10 McInerney.
“It’s not a concern,” Hackworth said of the group's collective height. “The style we try to play is not typical to the style of soccer that requires size. We want to keep the ball on the ground and put numbers forward. We want to create chances in a variety of ways.
"I’ve talked about Jack McInerney. He’s not a big guy at all, but he’s one of the best headers of the ball. It’s timing and technique and that can overrule the physical part of it. Danny is the same way. He plays so much bigger than he is and that’s what the game of soccer is about. It’s a technical game. It’s about agility and quickness. Do I wish we had some more size? Sometimes. But I’ll take quick, agile, technical players every day.”
The Union and Cruz will get to test their synergy immediately, as they head to RFK Stadium on Sunday to take on the United. And naturally, Cruz is entering that contest with something to prove.
“Anytime someone trades for you, you want to show them they made the right move,” said Cruz. “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to show that it was. I have no ill-will towards DC. There is certainly a chip on the shoulder and I plan on doing everything I can for this club.”E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@gmail.com