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Backup goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum gets set for first league match at home for Sporting Kansas City

Andy Gruenebaum in preseason action for Sporting KC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Andy Gruenebaum always speaks well of his time in Columbus, and with good cause. It's where he spent his first eight years as a professional, where he celebrated one MLS Cup and a pair of Supporters' Shields and where he led the league in saves in 2012.

But every time he came back to Kansas City, especially after Sporting Park opened in 2011, there was a part of him that felt like the odd man out – the one native who hadn't played for the hometown club.

“There's always a part of me that kind of lived vicariously through them,” Gruenebaum said on Friday, during Sporting Kansas City's weekly news conference. “You look at that situation, and what could be better?”

The raucous Cauldron supporters section, filling the stands behind the north goal at Sporting Park, never spared him a moment of heckling in his Crew days, either.

“The old 'We don't care where you're from' chant, but with a little bit more profanity in it and some other choice words,” Gruenebaum recalled with a laugh. “It's definitely better to be on this side, trust me.”

Gruenebaum, who came over from the Crew in an offseason trade as a backup to new No. 1 Eric Kronberg, has already gotten a taste of playing for those home fans, in a pair of U.S. Open Cup matches. Saturday's home outing against the LA Galaxy will be his first league match at Sporting Park (6 pm ET, ESPN2), though, and he's anticipating a far more intense atmosphere.

“It's going to be a big one,” he said. “Any time you play in front of that crowd, it just amps it up a little bit more.”

Gruenebaum will bring some momentum into the Galaxy match, too. He is 2-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average since moving into the top spot after Kronberg broke a bone in his left hand in a training game.

“You never want to come into a job due to injury,” he said. “I had to deal with that last year, and I've dealt with it before, so I really feel for him. Having said that, I have a job to do with the team as well, and it's been a pretty easy transition. I've been playing with these guys every day now, so I felt pretty comfortable getting in there. It's good to get a run of games.”

It's also good, he said, to get chances to prove he deserves that top spot.

“Even if I'm considered a backup, I don't see myself as a backup,” he said. “And I think that's pretty standard throughout the team. You look at the guys who've played a lot of minutes, even though they weren't expected to, and I don't think they see themselves as backups. We all have higher aspirations, and we all want to play. At the end of the day, it's not our decision, but we have to make a case for ourselves – and I think guys have done that. They've really stepped up and proven what they can do.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.