When the Columbus Crew announced that they traded their fourth round 2015 Superdraft pick to the Seattle Sounders for goalkeeper Steve Clark, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Andy Gruenebaum's future at the club.
Just moments later, suspicions were confirmed when it was announced that Gruenebaum had been traded to his hometown to join Sporting Kansas City for a second round pick in the 2016 SuperDraft.
Crew sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com that the team was ready to move in a different direction.
“Moving forward, we were looking to make a change, and we feel like we got a good guy,” Berhalter said via phone from Stockholm, Sweden on Monday. “We got a guy who's three years younger, who was the regular in the Norwegian top league for three years in a row, and we just felt like it was a move that we should make at this stage.”
“Without getting too detailed into it, that's fair to say in some sense,” he said. “But in another sense, it was 'okay, we're going to go in another direction,' and it didn't become about Andy anymore.”
Berhalter said that other MLS teams were interested in Gruenebaum, but he did suggest that giving the veteran a chance to play in his hometown was a priority.
“We came to a little bit of a standstill in negotiations, but for me it's important to treat players that mean a lot to the club in the right way,” Berhalter said. “I think [Gruenebaum] has put in a great deal of time with the Crew, and we have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's done both on and off the field in the Columbus community. For us, it was about getting him in the right situation.”
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Gruenebaum was an unquestioned leader on the field and in the Columbus locker room, and Berhalter said the team is “counting on” the 27-year-old Clark to replace some of that leadership.
“Speaking with his coaching staff in Norway and some players who played with him in Norway, he's a competitor, he likes to win, and he gets the guys around him focused,” Berhalter said. “What really struck me about him is he's really fine-tuned when it comes to the detail of it and coaching his defenders. That part really stuck with me.”
Andrew King covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.