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For Union's Cruz, match against Houston a family affair

Danny Cruz - Banner

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CHESTER, Pa. – The last time the Houston Dynamo came to PPL Park, they were the visiting team in what was the first playoff game in Philadelphia Union franchise history.

Probably unbeknownst to most Union fans at the time, that game also marked the first playoff appearance for Danny Cruz, then a starting midfielder for the Dynamo.

“It was a special moment,” Cruz told MLSsoccer.com. “I won’t forget it. I remember Gabe [Farfan] drop-kicking me two minutes into the game. You don’t forget things like that.”

On Sunday, Cruz – now a regular for the Union attack – faces his old teammates as the Dynamo return to PPL Park (4 pm ET; watch on MLS LIVE) for an Eastern Conference battle. Interestingly enough, the game comes just three days after the Union faced D.C. United, another one of Cruz’s former clubs.

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“Emotionally, it’s exhausting,” Cruz said. “It’s never easy having to play against former families. But I want to win here. That’s what I’m focused on.”

Unfortunately for Cruz, the Union have not been able to do that since he came over in a trade with D.C. United on Aug. 16. Philly’s last win came on July 29, and the frustration was visible in Cruz following their most recent setback, a 1-0 home loss to D.C. on Thursday.

Making matters even worse for Cruz was the fact that the guy he was traded for – Lionard Pajoy – scored the game’s only goal.

“Obviously that didn’t feel good,” Cruz said. “That was the last thing I wanted to happen. It’s upsetting to lose and to have him be the one to score. This club deserves more and I need to give it more.”

By now, Philly’s offensive struggles have been well-documented. They’ve only scored four goals in their past eight games, despite generally controlling possession and creating dangerous chances.

Cruz has only been with the Union for a little more than a month but he said it feels like he’s been saying the same things after every game about needing to break out of this rough patch.

Perhaps, he noted, the Union will be able to catch a break against Houston and do what they couldn’t do to D.C. United: put a dent in their visitor’s playoff hopes. The Dynamo are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just one point clear of Columbus.

“I don’t care if it bounces seven times off the crossbar and in,” Cruz said. “There’s always a little luck involved and we’re not getting any right now.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.