Houston Dynamo midfielder and Generation adidas player Danny Cruz recently caught up with SB Nation Houston after a training session in England with Nottingham Forest FC. Cruz took a few minutes to discuss the 2010 Dynamo season, training in Europe, his future with the Houston Dynamo and life as a young Major League Soccer player.
Jordan Wise: At the end of every season players sit down and have a meeting with Dynamo Head Coach Dominic Kinnear to discuss their past performance and future with the team. How did your meeting go and can you give us any idea what goes on in those meetings?
Danny Cruz: I can't go into any details from that meeting but I came out of there encouraged and am excited about getting better in the offseason.
JW: Can you shine any light on your current contract situation and what your status as a Generation adidas player will be going forward?
DC: I have finally been told that I will not graduate from the Generation Adidas program this year. This is good for both me and the club because it means I will not count against the Dynamo's salary cap next season. I am currently in the last year of my contract heading into this season and am really looking forward to it. It is a big year for me being in the last year of my deal so I just want to continue to get better every day, that is my goal.
JW: Can you give your quick thoughts on this past season? What went right? Where did things go wrong?
DC: I think it is no secret that we underachieved. The fans are unhappy with our performance this season, but what I hope people understand is that we are too. The players, coaches and front office hate losing and hate disappointing each other and the fans. I am not sure if people have this misconception that we enjoy losing because trust me we don't. When we lose on the weekend our entire week is shot until we can try to correct the mistakes we made during the next game.
I just think as a unit, from the front to the back, we were making mistakes and other teams were capitalizing on those mistakes. Whether it was us not finishing, the service being poor, or just defensively as a unit, we were not as sound as we needed to be.
JW: So, looking forward to this offseason and the 2011 season, what do you think needs to change? How would you change it?
DC: As for team changes, we have a great coach and a great staff and I am sure you already know they are working hard to make our team better, so as for team changes, I expect Dom (Kinnear) to do whatever he believes needs to be done to help us win.
JW: What was it like starting games and getting playing time this season after being a back-up for most of last season?
DC: To be able to start a professional game was something that I have been looking forward to ever since I started playing soccer. It was surreal and truly a feeling that I will never forget.
JW: How did it feel to score your first professional goal?
DC: I am sure my celebration speaks for itself. It was a feeling I did not expect to have as soon as I did. As I have said before, the celebration for me was meant to be shared by the entire team. If people compared where I was last year to where I was this year I think they would look at it as night and day. For me, that is why I get so excited about the future. I know that every year I have an opportunity to get better and as long as I continue to work hard in my eyes the sky is the limit.
JW: Brian Mullan, a mentor to you, was traded to Colorado towards the end of the season, what was it like to lose him? How did it feel to step up and fill that role?
DC: Brian Mullan was not only a good teammate and a mentor but he was a good friend. Off of the field, he and I were extremely close, so to lose him was definitely something that hit hard. I looked up to him like an older brother and he took me under his wing. No matter what people said, or what people thought of me, he was always the person to make sure that I was confident. He was a tremendous help.
JW: Did he say anything to you before leaving?
DC: He and I had a good long talk the day of his flight and that is something that I will keep between him and I. Not only do I look up to Mulls as a player, I look up to him as a person.
JW: There has been a lot of Designated Player talk in the last few months, what type of player/position would you like to see the front office bring in?
DC: As far as the DP is concerned, I can honestly say that I would like the front office to bring in whomever they believe will help us win. Position or player does not matter to me at all as long as we get back to the Dynamo tradition of winning games and commanding respect. With the expansion of MLS and the financial side of things, I think a DP at any club is beneficial so I certainly think it is a great idea for us to go get one.
JW: What are your offseason plans?
DC: I am currently in England training with Nottingham Forest again. I will be training there for a good amount of time before heading over to Madrid to continue training with the Generation Adidas team. After that, I am heading back to the US to spend the holidays with my family and then I plan on going back to Europe to try to stay sharp before preseason.
JW: It seems like lots of players go abroad for trials, training, and meetings with other teams. What do you think are the benefits of training away from the Dynamo?
DC: For me there are all sorts of benefits that come with training anywhere during the offseason. At the end of the day, at my age, I need to stay sharp and fit. This is the best way possible for me to do so. Next year the cycle should start for the Olympics and that is a major goal of mine. I have been fortunate enough to be with both the U20 and U17 national teams so I would like to hopefully continue my progress to the next level.
JW: Last season Dynamo fans heard Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden express a desire to play in Europe. Geoff Cameron already came out and said he wants to play in Europe at some point and is weighing his options as he decides whether or not to re-sign with Houston. Do you have an interest in playing abroad?
DC: I think that playing in Europe is something a lot of people would like to do. I certainly want to play there at some point in my career when I feel I am ready. Fortunately for me, my father was born in Germany so a European passport is something that I am currently working on for the future, whenever that may be. I would not mind playing anywhere in Europe but if I had the choice England would be the country that I'd love to play in.
JW: Switching gears back to the Dynamo, what are your thoughts on the new stadium? What does having your own stadium mean to this team?
DC: I am excited for the new stadium I think everybody deserves it and has worked hard for it. I think all parties involved have done an outstanding job and it really is amazing to see how it has all come together! I think that any team that can finally say, "This is OUR home" makes it a tough team to play against. I am truly excited about it.
JW: I got a sneak peak at the new Dynamo uniforms (to be revealed on December 7), but am wondering what your thoughts on the new design are?
DC: New uniforms, I like them. I am interested to see them in person though!
JW: Anything you want the fans to know as your start your offseason work?
DC: I just want the fans to know that no matter what they think of me as a player, continue the support because it makes it a lot easier to play when you know your fans are behind you. We realize it was not a good year but just know that we are working as hard as we can to make sure that next year we are winning the way we used to.
JW: Finally, do you mind checking back in with SBNation Houston and Dynamo Theory later on this offseason?
DC: You got it! I'll try to check in from Spain when I'm on the Generation adidas trip.
JW: Thanks for your time, Danny. We all look forward to this next season and what the future holds for you and the Houston Dynamo.
DC: No problem. Thank you.
After training with Nottingham Forest, Cruz will meet up with his fellow Generation adidas teammates and will travel to Spain where he will take part in training and exhibitions with the Real Madrid reserves, Rayo Vallencano and Atletico Madrid. Cruz said he would check in after that trip, so check back here soon to get his reaction from his time in Spain with Schellas Hyndman and the Generation adidas team.
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