KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Andy Gruenebaum has played plenty of professional matches in his hometown. But until now, it was always as the Columbus Crew's goalkeeper.
Gruenebaum finally made his debut with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night, recording three saves and a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Minnesota United FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“I'm just amped. It's a blast,” he told reporters afterward. “I enjoyed my years in Columbus, obviously, and I loved it there, but this is home for me. I've been circling this date to get on the pitch, and obviously I want to play every game – but just to get out there, in front of that crowd, is something I've been dreaming of.”
Gruenebaum spent eight years with the Crew before coming to Sporting in an offseason trade to back up new No. 1 Eric Kronberg.
“I've been looking forward to playing in front of the hometown, and it was a blast just to have them at my back instead of yelling at me,” he said. “That's always a good thing. I thought the guys battled hard in front of me, made my life easy.”
Gruenebaum turned in his own solid effort as well, helping Kansas City advance to Tuesday's fifth-round home match against the Portland Timbers.
“I thought he was very good,” manager Peter Vermes said in the postmatch news conference. “I thought his distribution was fantastic. I really did. I thought he was very good on the ball. I thought he found the open guys. I thought he led the game from behind. I think a few times he came out, was in good position, wasn't deep in the goal. That gave us the ability to take a higher line up the field.”
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Minnesota went down a man in the 50th minute, when defender Cristiano Dias was sent off for a hard aerial challenge on Dom Dwyer, but the visiting NASL side continued to hit on the counter throughout the match as they tried to pull off the upset.
“A lot of MLS teams get bounced early, for whatever reason, in this tournament – whether it's preparation or whatnot,” Gruenebaum said. “We didn't want to be one of those teams. And of course, they were going to battle. A lot of times you get that red card and you come together as a team, look to counter and hopefully you get a lucky one. So we had to stay organized, and I thought we did a fantastic job.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.