CARSON, Calif. - Coming into Major League Soccer as a rookie out of Indiana University, Ned Grabavoy seemed to be on a fast track to the top.
A second round selection of the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2004 SuperDraft, Grabavoy immediately made an impression with coach Sigi Schmid, making 15 appearances (11 starts) as he started his professional career.
But then things changed. With about a quarter of the season remaining last year, the Galaxy decided to go a different direction with their coach, bringing in Steve Sampson. With Sampson at the helm, Grabavoy hasn't been able to find a way to fit into the team's master plan.
"That's soccer," said Grabavoy. "Every year there's going to be changes. You just have to work hard and stay positive and keep your confidence level high."
Grabavoy continued to work hard in training, and three weeks ago, when Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas went down with an injury, Sampson came calling on the second-year player to fill the gap. Grabavoy stepped up to the challenge and performed admirably.
"What he offered us on the offensive side of the ball was really what we needed," Sampson said. "That was someone who could hold the ball for us and dictate the rhythm."
With Vagenas healthy again, Grabavoy will most likely see his playing time reduced again. While his play on the field definitely showed that he is more than capable of competing at the highest level in Sampson's system, he's competing for playing time against a six-year MLS veteran - and the Galaxy captain.
"I have to watch Pete because that the position he (Sampson) sees me in," said Grabavoy. "To be that guy that keeps possession in the middle and links the backs to the forwards."
Only time will tell what kind of impact Grabavoy will have with the Galaxy and in MLS. Every player goes through ups and downs, but his recent performance has been one that should boost Grabavoy's confidence, and he undoubtedly will be called on again sometime this season.
For his coach, it's an easy call to make, because he knows Grabavoy has all the tools required.
"Ned will only become more explosive offensively. He makes great passes, and has incredible vision," said Sampson. "It's his touch under pressure that's really special. Not a lot of players in this league have that ability."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.