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Long season ends for Pride, but coach is optimistic for future

By: Matt Long
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After 30 years of coaching, Danny Cruz still hasn’t had enough. On Saturday at Promontory Park in El Dorado Hills, the coach of the FC Sacramento Pride had just watched his team lose their final game of the season, 5-1, to the California Storm, to finish the summer with a 2-9-1 record. The sun’s relentless heat pounded the artificial turf for most of the game, but now it had set, yet the temperature was still well over 90 degrees. Players from both teams, the officials and fans have all left and there’s a pair of easy-ups to bring down, plenty of empty bottles to pick up and soccer balls and uniforms to gather and haul to his truck. It’s been a long day, let alone a long two-month season, yet Cruz’ passion for the game and coaching shines through. “I do this because I love it,” Cruz said. “It’s pretty much what I’ve done all my life. Sometimes I think I’m crazy, but when one or two players say thank you, that just seems to make it worth it.” Cruz has coached the Sacramento Pride since he founded the organization in 2002. In the past his team’s have had more talent and better records, but now with the youngest team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, Cruz has what he considers a semi-pro team playing in a professional league. While many of the other team’s pay their players and are financially sound, the players on the Pride have to pay Cruz to play and pretty much the only thing Cruz can give his players is the opportunity to play. The college players on his roster got 12 games in during the summer playing against tough competition, staying in shape as they prepare for their upcoming collegiate season. Meanwhile, the high school players got a chance to play against talented players that they otherwise would never see. Against the Storm, one of the top teams in the league, the Pride has virtually no chance to win playing against a more experienced, more talented team, despite taking a 1-0 lead on a fluke goal of Emily Lawrence, in which the Storm’s keeper put the ball in her own net. The Storm tied the game quickly afterwards and the game was 1-1 at halftime. However, the Storm scored four quick goals in the 15-minute stretch early in the second half and rolled to a 5-1 win against the undermanned Pride. “This was the hottest it’s been for any of our games this season,” Cruz said. “What killed us was that we had no bench. They had that 10-minute stretch in the second half, but other than that I thought we played well. “They’re fit and they’re experienced and they’re the second-best team in the West region so my girls don’t get a lot from playing them,” Cruz continued. “I’ve got four or five girls who might have gotten something from it. Caty Harris, she’s our leader. She played forward, midfield and sweeper and never complained. She’s a competitor.” Despite the lop-sided loss and the poor win-loss record, it’s been a decent season for the Pride, according to Cruz. He said this year has been 100 times better than last season. “Our work ethic was better this year,” Cruz said. “I had better players this year and more commitment from them. I hope the core girls come back next year and we get some more top college players from the Sacramento area so we can compete. “I’m trying to build something here and getting sponsors for next year would help.”