Brought in for his bite, Cruz is proving he's a two-way player
Here are some of the top storylines from practice as D.C. United prepares for its penultimate preseason match on Wednesday night against the Charleston Battery. The match, which starts at 7:15 p.m., can be seen via live stream exclusively at dcunited.com.
When D.C. United shipped allocation money to Houston in exchange for Danny Cruz earlier this year, exactly where the feisty winger would fit in D.C.'s crowded midfielder was very up in the air. Through most of preseason, people have penciled Cruz in as a defensive late-game sub, capable of locking down an opposing player if the Black-and-Red are holding on to a lead.
[inline_node:15455]But over the last few days of training, Cruz has come to life on the offensive end of the field. In a full side scrimmage Monday, the 22-year-old sliced in from the right flank before burying a left-footed shot into the far corner past Andrew Dykstra. The trend continued Tuesday, as Cruz was among United's most efficient players during a series of finishing drills.
"You are always trying to score more goals and get more assists, and that's what I want to try and do," Cruz said after training. "Right now, I'm playing behind a very good player and the minutes that I get I expect to come in and give that bite to the team and hopefully a winning mentality."
Cruz, who represented the U.S. at the 2007 U-17 World Cup, knows a thing or two about winning. He started all four playoff games as the Dynamo made it to MLS Cup last year, and was also a part of the 2009 Houston team that advanced to the Western Conference Final.
When D.C. United announced yesterday that the club had signed Andrew Dykstra, Ben Olsen knew he was getting some solid depth in net. Turns out Dykstra brings something else to the table as well, an intricate knowledge of D.C.'s Wednesday night opponent, the Charleston Battery.
Dykstra played eleven games with Charleston last season, backstopping the Battery to a playoff spot. On Tuesday, Dykstra offered some thoughts on his former team.
"They are a team that are pretty good for their league and I respect the heck out their coach," said United's newest signee. "I expect it to be a good game and for them to want to prove something to us and to themselves."
The young goalkeeper singled out forward Dane Kelly and center back Colin Falvey as players to watch on Wednesday night.
NOW OR NEVER
With time running out before Ben Olsen must finalize his roster, Wednesday night's match against the Battery is one of a few last chances for those players still without a contract to earn one.
As of Tuesday's training session Lance Rozeboom, Ryan Richter, Jose Burciaga, Guilherme and Seth C'deBaca were unsigned, but still in camp.
Rozeboom, Richter and Guilherme all played on Saturday, and will likely see time again Wednesday. Burciaga teammed with Dejan Jakovic, Ethan White and Daniel Woolard in defensive drills on Tuesday and should be ready to go if called upon.
With Olsen looking to establish a weekend-to-weekend rhythm for his probable starters, Wednesday's playing-time plan is likely to include plenty of minutes for those further down the depth chart.