Danny Cruz is only 26, but he’s a veteran of six Major League Soccer seasons. Minnesota United, which is playing in the North American Soccer League this year but is transitioning to MLS — quite possibly as soon as next season — signed Cruz recently to bolster its offensive attack. Cruz, a forward, chatted recently with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q You went to high school in Arizona and college in Las Vegas. Have you adapted yet to the Minnesota winter you were thrust into?
A The transition has been really good. It’s a good group of guys, and the staff has treated me really well — both the front office and the coaching staff. It’s never easy to make a move like this, when you have to meet new people and move across the country but it’s been really good.
Q What was the attraction of the United in particular, as someone who has played in MLS and played last year in Norway?
A I did a lot of research before making this decision. For me, this club fell a little bit short last year but I made phone calls and spoke to the right people and wanted to make sure this is a professional environment. Ultimately, the goal is to win a cup, and I think we have a really good group of guys here. So for me it was the guys, the coaches, the staff and the professional atmosphere that really played a role. And the fact that the club is going to be going to Major League Soccer soon is exciting. I’m looking forward to all that.
Q Even though this is a transition year with no official timetable, how much of the move up to MLS specifically was a selling point to you?
A It’s a huge sell. It really is. It’s something that’s obviously talked about. This is an exciting time for the club, and I think that’s a huge sell for players. From the beginning of the season to the end, we’re focusing on the season and winning — not only for the club but for the fans and city — but yeah, of course the fact that Major League Soccer is coming is huge. … Everybody wants it to happen as soon as possible. The sooner you can make that jump, the better for the club. But it’s not a distraction. We’re focused on the task at hand.
Q What particular skill set will you bring to the mix on this team?
A I think I add a lot of pace and experience to the attack. I like to get in behind [the defense] and take guys 1-on-1 and get the ball in the box as much as possible. That being said, I think I’m good at getting on the end of things. I think I’ll bring a good balance to how we play.
Q You have a training trip with three preseason games in a one-week span against MLS teams starting Sunday against Portland. How important is this kind of trip?
A Yeah, absolutely important. The one thing that was key when I was in Major League Soccer is the preseason training is so important. You have the opportunity to go away for 10 or 11 days and literally just be with your teammates. For new guys like me, it’s even more important. You establish those relationships both on and off the field. And with the on-field stuff, it gives you the opportunity to play against good opponents and understand the system. I love every part of it.