U.S. U20 International chats with Goal.com’s Max Zeger about the upcoming U20 World Cup in Egypt.
An Arizona native who didn’t even start playing soccer until he was 13 preferring American Football, Cruz is set to play in his second youth World Cup having already represented the United States in the 2007 U17 World Cup in South Korea.
"It is an unforgettable feeling," Cruz told Goal.com. "Anytime you are able to represent your country at such a prestigious event, it is special. Not only is it an honor, it is also a great opportunity to do something memorable."
Although there are no players with the reputations such as Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore who have featured in the 2007 roster, Cruz, who plays for the Houston Dynamo, believes the team aspect will more than make up for the lack of big names.
"This is a group that will play for each other," he asserted. "We will fight through thick and thin for one another. At the end of the day it is 11 on 11. It is a group of guys on the field that take pride in representing the United States. I believe we will compete and make our country proud."
Cruz has featured in a number of games for the U.S. U20’s with two he played this past June sticking out. The U.S. U20’s traveled to Egypt for two exhibitions against their Egyptian counterparts.
"[It] was a very big trip for us to take," Cruz said. "We were able to get acclimated to the country, the food, the lodging, which will all be an advantage when we head to [Egypt].
"We were fortunate enough to play two very competitive games in very hostile environments, and I think it was a great experience for us. We were able to get two results on the road, and I think that is something for us to build on. The trip prepared us tremendously from every standpoint."
While the players will decide much of the outcomes, there is one other person, whom Cruz believes deserves a lot of credit: U20 head coach Thomas Rongen.
"Not only do I think he is a great coach, but I have a lot of respect for the way he treats us as players," said Cruz. "Whether you are in college or play professionally, he treats us all as professionals. He has put a lot of confidence in me as a player, and it has helped me out tremendously. I always look forward to my time with the U20s because I know I will get something out of it. Playing for a coach like [Rongen] is something we look forward to."
Nearly half of this year’s team is still in college, but the expectations remain high.
"We obviously want to go over and get results," Cruz explained. "At the end of the day that is what truly matters. We have a great group of guys who have really bought into the team aspect and that in itself will go a long way. Great coaching, followed by great players is a good formula for success."
The USA will kick off the U20 World Cup against Germany on Sept. 26.
Max Zeger is a Goal.com contributor. You can follow Max Zeger on twitter @mcmz403.
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