Of the three goalkeepers currently on Sporting Kansas City's roster, Andy Gruenebaum is by far the most experienced. Still, he's not counting on stepping into the retired Jimmy Nielsen's No. 1 spot when the 2014 season opens.
“I don't expect anything to be handed to me, no matter what my resume says,” Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com by email on Monday, after Sporting acquired him from the Columbus Crew for a second-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. “I am competing with two unbelievable goalkeepers, and whatever my role is on this team I will contribute in any way I am asked.”
Longtime backup Eric Kronberg is out of contract at the end of 2013, after appearing in five MLS matches for Sporting over seven years, and 20-year-old Jon Kempin has just one US Open Cup start with the senior squad.
Gruenebaum, meanwhile, has 80 league appearances in eight years with the Crew, including a career-high 33 in 2012 when he led MLS with 124 saves.
If Kansas City bring Kronberg back, that would set up the first serious competition for the No. 1 spot since 2004, when Tony Meola and Bo Oshonyi both saw extensive action as the then-Wizards won the US Open Cup and reached the MLS Cup final.
Then again, Sporting have plenty of minutes to go around next season. The MLS Cup champs are already guaranteed 41 matches next year across all competitions, after qualifying for the knockout stage of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League and the 2014-15 group stage.
Manager Peter Vermes cited that heavy load in the news release announcing the trade for Gruenebaum.
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“He is a great addition to our team and a complement to our goalkeepers,” Vermes said. “We needed someone with a lot of experience because we're in multiple major competitions in 2014.”
One thing isn't uncertain, at least: Gruenebaum, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., and grew up in Overland Park, Kan., is looking forward to joining his hometown team.
“I am so excited to be coming home and playing in front of my family and friends,” he wrote. “I have always known how amazing the fans, club, and ownership are here in KC, and I look forward to helping to contribute to another championship in my hometown.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.