He has always been a very talented player, yet Australian fans have often treated him with ambivalence; happy to applaud him when he does something well, but quick to jump on him and make him a scapegoat when things go awry, particularly when he plays for the national team.
That was the case in Russia in the 2018 World Cup when Kruse – who had missed the 2014 tournament through injury – was used as a whipping boy on social media by Australian fans frustrated at their conservatism under Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk and their failure to progress from the group stage.
Kruse received threats of violence and abuse and his family had to close their Facebook account. It was something that shocked his teammates as much as it did Kruse, and says a lot about the toxicity of social media and the impact it can have on players.
The fact that he is being lauded illustrates the fickleness of supporters; the fact that he has dealt with it and come back stronger speaks volumes about his mental strength as well as his ability to play the game.
If anyone was in any doubt about his bona fides, a glace at his CV will dispel their illusions.
Kruse scored on his debut as a 19-year-old for Brisbane Roar in October 2007 netting the winner on his birthday.
After a difficult period in his home city when his future was under a cloud after an altercation outside a nightclub, Victory’s then coach Ernie Merrick threw him a lifeline. Merrick recognised that Kruse’s technical ability, pace and smarts could play a key role as he sought to reinvigorate a team that at that time had won two A-League championships.
From Victory he moved to Germany, where he spent the bulk of his career, playing for the likes of Fortuna Dusseldorf initially before getting his big career move to top Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.
Those not familiar with German soccer may not realise what a big deal this was: Bayer finished in the top four of the elite German competition during Kruse’s first three seasons at the club.
While he did not play as many games as he would have wanted – the curse of ACL injuries and other ailments to his fragile body have always restricted his game time – he was still part of a high-quality squad that would have given any club team in the world a decent test.
In his time at Bayer he was vying for a first team spot against the likes of Heung-Min Son, Tottenham’s Korean superstar, so game time was always going to be an issue even if he had been at peak fitness – which he so often wasn’t.
But coaches of the calibre of Holger Osieck – the Socceroos boss who picked him, and then played him as an exciting youngster in the 2011 Australian side that was only beaten in extra time in the final of the Asian Cup in Qatar – Ange Postecoglou and van Marwijk never hesitated to have him in their national line-ups when they were in charge.
Kruse was an Asian Cup winner with Postecoglou in 2015, but in what can be seen as a motif of his career he limped out of the final with 20 minutes remaining because of a season-ending ankle injury.
Now aged 31 Kruse is back where his career really took off but much to his frustration he was injured at the start of the campaign and only came back off the bench in round six against Sydney.
Since then, however, he has been a standout, scoring the only goal of the game against Perth in his first start, and ever present in Victory’s last four matches.
Kruse is just pleased to be able to show what he can do when he is fit and firing. “My career has always been quite hampered by injury. Even at the start here I missed the first seven or eight games. This is the first time I have strung five full games together,” he points out.
“Ever since I did my ACL the first time I can’t really think of too many times I have played five full games in a row.
“I get my loads managed quite a lot, I am 31 so I am not a young kid anymore. I sometimes miss a session here and there, particularly after games, trying to manage my body and keep it fully going.”
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing