Separated by an ocean and two seasons removed from playing together, the Union's Danny Cruz said he remains close friends with former teammate Geoff Cameron.

Cameron was "one of those guys that loved helping younger guys," when Cruz broke into the MLS in 2009 with Houston. Cameron now plays abroad for English Premier League club Stoke City.

Cruz said his friend still follows the action back home, and Cruz plans to visit him this offseason.

Cameron, 28, also provides the Union midfielder with an example of how to grow in the sport.

"I was able to see where he started and I can see where he is now," Cruz said Thursday before boarding a flight to Vancouver in preparation for Saturday's game against the Whitecaps.

Cruz will get a closer look at his friend's development Tuesday night, when the Union host Stoke City in a friendly at PPL Park.

As Cruz was starting his career, he said, Cameron was beginning to grow.

"It was one of those breakout years," Cruz said.

Two seasons later the pair helped Houston reach the MLS final. Cruz was traded that offseason and Cameron played another season before signing with Stoke last summer.

He finished his first season by starting three of Stoke's last four games and often told Cruz about the league's fast pace.

Cruz, 23, has started all but one game since March 10 and has helped the fourth-place Union (8-6-7) climb the Eastern Conference standings by earning a point in seven of their last eight games.

"We've done well," he said. "We've been smart the last few weeks and we're in a good spot."

Cruz said that he and his teammates understand that Tuesday's game against Stoke is merely a preseason game for their competitors.

But it's a chance, Cruz said, for the Union to test themselves against a club that features a strong defense and an attack headed by 6-foot-7 striker Peter Crouch. Americans Maurice Edu and Brek Shea are also with Stoke.

"And it makes it even better when you get to play against an old friend," Cruz said.