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By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- Danny Cruz is the only player who started for the Houston Dynamo in last year's MLS Cup who isn't still with the team.
He clearly isn't happy about that fact.
The midfielder gets his first chance to play against his former club when D.C. United host the Dynamo on Saturday night.
Houston (2-1-2) first made clear that Cruz was not in its future plans when it left him unprotected in the expansion draft following last season's 1-0 defeat to Los Angeles in the MLS Cup. Cruz was not selected, and was traded in January to D.C. (3-2-3).
"I was a big piece of that puzzle," Cruz told United's official website. "But, I was always swept under the rug - I felt like - and it's hard when you don't feel like you are getting a little bit of respect."
The 22-year-old Cruz spent his three previous seasons with Houston, which has four wins and a draw in its last five MLS meetings with D.C. Will Bruin had a hat trick in the Dynamo's 4-1 home victory a season ago before Brian Ching came up with an 89th-minute equalizer in a 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium on June 25.
Bruin and Ching have formed a strong partnership over the last two matches for the Dynamo. Ching fed Bruin for the Dynamo's lone goal in a 1-1 tie at Chicago on April 15, and each forward scored in last Saturday's 2-2 draw against Columbus.
"For them to get two goals, they deserve it and they did it with hard work," goalkeeper Tally Hall told the Dynamo's official website.
Midfielder Brad Davis practiced Thursday and could return for Houston after missing the last two matches with a left calf strain. Corey Ashe, who injured his hamstring in the Columbus match, has also proclaimed that he is OK.
Since losing its first two contests, D.C. is unbeaten in its last six. United matched their highest goal total of the season in Sunday's 4-1 home win over New York.
Chris Pontius recorded his first career hat trick. He's got four goals - three shy of his 2011 total.
"He still doesn't know how to play forward though - that's the scary thing," said coach Ben Olsen about the converted midfielder. "He's still new at the position, and his movements can get a lot better, but three goals isn't too bad."
Reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario has yet to score this season, but Olsen doesn't sense any frustration from his star.
"Dwayne doesn't care," Olsen said. "Of course, you always want goals and assists; we all have egos. But ultimately, you'll see a smile on his face in there."
De Rosario ranks fifth in MLS with 26 shot attempts. Teammate Maicon Santos is third with 29, but he's scored four times.
D.C. rookie midfielder Nick DeLeon is off to a hot start with three goals and three assists. He's halfway to breaking the club record of five goals by a rookie, held by Santino Quaranta (2001), Freddy Adu (2004) and Andy Najar (2010).
Updated April 27, 2012