Danny Cruz
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Cruz healthy, will return for weekend matchup vs. Dynamo

CHESTER, Pa. – Before getting hurt two weeks ago in Chicago, Danny Cruz had started every game as a member of the Philadelphia Union.

With Cruz now healthy again, that streak looks like it will pick up again for the final three games of the 2012 campaign – and into next season.

During his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Union manager John Hackworth piled a lot of praise on Cruz, who was traded to Philly in exchange for leading scorer Lionard Pajoy in mid-August and looks to be a key piece on the team’s roster moving forward.

“I think Danny has been a great acquisition for us,” Hackworth said. “I’m sure people are looking at it like Pajoy vs. Cruz, but you can’t really look at it that way. They play two different positions and the situation for each player for the future of this club is on opposite ends of the spectrum. So when we look at Danny alone, we’re very pleased with his progress.”

In nine starts with Philly, Cruz has provided great hustle and pace along the wing. But it wasn’t until his last two starts when he logged his first goal and first assist with the Union.

Then came the injury to his Achilles tendon, which wasn’t nearly as serious as he originally thought. After missing one game, he expects to be back in the lineup on Saturday against one of his old teams, the Houston Dynamo, at BBVA Compass Stadium (7:30 pm ET, NBC Sports).

“I’m looking forward to the weekend,” Cruz said. “I’m back to normal, which is good.”

The Union, of course, are no longer in playoff contention. But for players like Cruz, who are eager to continue to gel with his new teammates and prove his worth heading into next season, the final three games of the year still carry with them a lot of importance.

“The first thing on my mind is, ‘Let’s finish the season the right way,’” Cruz said. “The second thing is, ‘Let’s give our fans what they deserve.’ And the third thing is, ‘We’re all playing for jobs and that’s the bottom line.’”

Perhaps some players are playing for jobs, but most signs point to Cruz being around next year. He’s already done enough to prove he belongs.

“We know Danny really well, we know what he’s capable of and we know he’s a proven player in this league,” Hackworth said. “He’s continued to do that with us and he shows it every day in training, so it’s been a pretty seamless transition with him into our locker room. And we think that bodes well for us as we look toward 2013.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.