Injured Cruz returns to Dynamo practice

HOUSTON — Danny Cruz’s seemingly endless wait to get back on the field looks to be coming to an end.

The energetic midfielder has been out of the Dynamo fold since aggravating a right knee hyperextension in the April 23 draw against the Chicago Fire. On Monday morning, Cruz joined his team for a full training session for the first time since the injury.

“Today felt great,” Cruz told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “Mentally it’s tough sitting out, and while it was a short session today it was great for me because I need to work on my fitness. But overall it’s a great step forward.”

Cruz took part in a short-field game and did some fitness work with the club to end the session. He admitted that while there’s some rust from his time off, he’s encouraged by the way he felt. That encouragement is pushing the midfielder to continue to build his fitness, something that’s essential playing in Houston.

“He did OK, but he was tired there at the end,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said of Cruz’s first day. “You have to be fit when you come back because the heat’s setting in and it’s hard to get fitness back in this heat. But he said he feels OK and had no pain.”

Despite the good feelings and positive step forward, Cruz was reluctant to give a firm target date or timeline for his return to game action.

The injury struck Cruz in the middle of what was a good run of form. His mental game was starting to catch up to his energy and pace, and the players around him were feeding off his style of play. Houston are ready to get that energy back on the field, especially with Jamaica having called Je-Vaughn Watson in for June’s Gold Cup.

“He was playing well before he got hurt,” Kinnear said. “He was a driving force for us before the injury and we’ve missed his energy and enthusiasm. When you add him it makes us that much better.”

On his way back to contributing for Houston, Cruz is focused in the short term on getting his fitness up to par. In the long term, the midfielder is ready to get his season back on track and help his team.

“I’ve always been a player that knows my role and I want to contribute,” Cruz said. “To be honest, being out has been a good learning process. I can see things on the field and see what I can do better. Now I want to come back and use that and be the same type of player I was before the injury and help the team continue to do well.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.