Danny Cruz sees Amobi Okugo's prediction, raises him one better in Philadelphia Union breakthrough

CHESTER, Pa. – A couple of days before Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders, Philadelphia Union defender Amobi Okugo sent a text message to friend and teammate Danny Cruz.

“I said I feel you scoring one goal today,” Okugo told MLSsoccer.com. “I didn’t know he was going to score two.”

Few people did.

In one of the most surprising moments of the season, Cruz scored two goals in the span of one minute in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders, matching his total from the entire 2012 season.

“I’m really happy for him,” Okugo said. “It was a good chance to get pressure off his shoulders and hopefully he’s going to score some more. When you’re knocking at the door, sooner or later, it’s going to open.”

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In the past few weeks, Cruz had indeed been able to use his speed to get behind defenses to create chances. But in 20 starts with the Union, the diminutive midfielder had never been able to score for Philly during the run of play – until Saturday.

The goals came in the 50th and 51st minute after shots from Conor Casey and Jack McInerney hit the post and Cruz pounced on the rebound.

“The first one I just tried to hit it far post, so just in case the 'keeper got a hand on it maybe we could get a rebound,” Cruz said after the game. “The second one, the ball got cleared out and I took it off my chest and obviously I was just feeling confident from the first goal. That happens with most football players.”

Cruz, who’s felt some heat this season from fans and the media, credited Union manager John Hackworth for having “the faith in me," which he said has “continued to drive me.”

And Hackworth was certainly rewarded for continually starting Cruz in the midfield, perhaps at the expense of some well-established players like Sébastien Le Toux, Kléberson and Gabriel Farfan.

“For Danny, it was especially pleasing because he’s probably been under the microscope a little bit and criticized for some missed chances,” Hackworth said. “And he takes two great chances there. So I’m really happy for him.”

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Perhaps the best part of Cruz’s unlikely brace is that it relieves some pressure from McInerney, who’s scored half of the team’s goals in 2013.

In fact, the goals by Cruz were the first by a Union midfielder this season.

“Today it was Danny Cruz, but I’m betting Michael Farfan is going to have one of these days and Keon Daniel is going to have one of these days and Conor Casey is going to have one of these days,” Hackworth said. “When that happens, I think we’re going to be able to compete with anybody in this league.”

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

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