AMSTERDAM – Cast in a new role as Stabaek's starting midfielder, erstwhile Real Salt Lake man Cole Grossman has quickly proven he knows how to pull off a fantastic segue.
In January, just two weeks after his deal at Rio Tinto Stadium ran out, the 25-year-old Sacramento native moved to Norway to join Bob Bradley's Stabaek side. Less than six months later, Grossman has become a major contributor, notching a pair of big goals in six games for the Tippeligaen's second-place club.
Call it luck, call it being the right value guy at the right time, but Grossman may well have enjoyed the smoothest job search around. Heading to Europe was not necessarily his plan, but jumping at the chance to play for Bradley was a no-brainer.
"Immediately, I was blown away by Bob's training, the kind of things we were doing, his intensity and message," Grossman told MLSsoccer.com by phone following Tuesday's training session at Nadderud Stadion. "It was something I wanted to experience. It was all pretty easy."
While Grossman enjoyed a two-season stay with Real Salt Lake, he also understood the realities of his role with the club. He was a depth player on a good team, seeing only seven starts in 21 appearances, typically to cover injuries, suspensions, or an international absence by USMNT star Kyle Beckerman.
"I was behind Kyle and we had a very deep, strong midfield," said Grossman. "I loved being there, loved being part of the winning culture.
"I knew always, in the back of my mind, that I had to go elsewhere to be a starter, to be counted on as one of the main guys. Anybody that's been a reserve in any sports league, you can't really improve and can't really show well all the time unless you're getting games. When my contract expired, if I wanted a serious career, I had to find a place I could be a full-time starter."
As Stabaek's preseason campaign lasts nearly three months, Grossman has already piled up 20 starts, including friendlies and cup play. He is wearing the increased action well as the highest-rated midfielder on the club by leading Norwegian daily VG.
Some observers may be surprised that he has only needed six league matches in Norway to match his goal haul from 34 total MLS appearance with Real and Columbus. But the midfielder says it’s just a case of having a hotter iron to strike with – in the last month, he's already gone the distance twice as many times as he did in two years with RSL.
"I've always been pretty confident in my shooting ability," he stated. "Most importantly, I feel more comfortable playing every week. It's crucial to development and comfort in the game."
The same could be said for Bradley's squad, in general. Grossman says Stabaek were expected to struggle this year, and some preseason media prognostications even had them finishing in the basement. But like Grossman himself, the young squad is surprising everyone in Norway.
While the arrival of three key attackers just before the season opener is starting to pay off, Stabaek's early success has started with the back line that Grossman protects from his holding midfield position. The team boasts four straight shutout victories and has conceded the fewest goals in the the league. Grossman says all the credit goes to Bradley for pulling a bunch of lucky job hunters together on short order.
"He's an incredible coach," Grossman stated. "We have a strong identity as a team. We know how we want to play in every game, and we think we have a chance in every game. I can't even tell you how far this this team has come in three months.
"We're organized, we have good shape, a very good goalkeeper and some experience on the back line. We've been hard to break down so far. Hopefully, we can keep that going. We were all aware of where we were picked to finish, but it was probably fair in some ways because this team had a lot of turnover from last year. I guess we've surprised people, but it's only six games in and there's a long way to go."