We wanted to step away from the superstars and the goal celebrations, and fact of the matter is there was a great candidate.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum made seven saves on the road to buoy his sputtering club’s chances of getting a win and, though KC couldn’t get on the scoresheet, he was fantastic. Highlight reel stuff was in play, but Gruenebaum also navigated some dangerous crosses and helped calm a team that could’ve self-destructed after a tough home loss against New England the previous week.
For the second week in a row… Robbie Keane is PST’s MLS player of the week with two goals. Were it not for a slick Joe Bendik save and a long first touch, he could’ve easily had four.
While many people will talk about Landon Donovan breaking the assist record on both of those goals, it has to be Keane. And with all due respect to Lee Nguyen in New England and Bill Hamid in DC, Keane is the most valuable player in MLS right now, and all year.
Enjoy this individual season. They don’t come around that often.
Sporting KC is looking to follow up a championship season by doing what the Galaxy did in 2012: make it back-to-back MLS Cups.
It’ll be tough, if only due to the congested schedule headed KC’s way due to more CONCACAF Champions League soccer. There’s depth in the engine room, but what will be KC’s answer for the retiring Jimmy Nielsen in goal? Who will emerge as the No. 1 strike target up top? Or will multiple players battle for the mantle?
Players In: Sal Zizzo (trade from Portland), Andy Gruenebaum (trade from Columbus), Jimmy Medranda (transfer from Deportivo Pereira)
Players Out: Teal Bunbury (traded to New England), Jimmy Nielsen (retirement), Kyle Miller (waived), Brendan Ruiz (waved), Federico Bessone (out of contract)
Key Players: Eric Kronberg and Gruenebaum
Who replaces Jimmy Nielsen? It’s a question that has to be at the front of every KC supporter’s mind. He was integral to what they do in so many ways. Kronberg will get every opportunity but look out for that veteran from Columbus, Gruenebaum. Heavy will be the head that takes over for the crowned.
Manager: Peter Vermes
What else needs to be said about Vermes, who is the only player in MLS history to win an MLS Cup as a player and coach for the same club? His job is to develop a true strike threat while navigating the change between the sticks.Outlook:
Pretty good. The defense is pretty much back together and there should be little adjustment there and in the midfield. The big questions are at the extreme ends of the park. Will the goalkeeping and finishing be enough to keep KC a threat for a championship? I tend to think so. As long as Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber (both right) and company are helping with the build-up, there should be plenty of opportunities for Soony Saad, CJ Sapong, Claudio Bieler or Dom Dwyer to bury balls behind the goal line.
Losing a great goalkeeper and popular locker room leader was surely a blow to Sporting Kansas City, although no one could begrudge Jimmy Nielsen’s decision to retire on top, doing so just hours after SKC lifted the MLS trophy 10 days back.
Kansas City traded sent a second round pick in the 2016 draft to Columbus for Gruenebaum’s rights; he was out contract at Columbus.
Gruenebaum had been a backup to William Hesmer until 2012, when the Crew’s longtime No. 1 fell to a long-term injury. And the story from there was one of the real doozies of MLS in 2012.
Gruenebaum was nothing less than a revelation, an outstanding netminder at Crew Stadium. Outrage poured forth, in fact, when he didn’t get an invitation to the 2012 MLS All-Star game in Philadelphia. (We poured our share of it at ProSoccerTalk.)
The one knock on Gruenebaum comes in some history of injury; in fact, he was limited to just 21 in 2013.
What a stroke of fortune for Gruenebaum (nicknamed “The Hebrew Hammer”), who goes from a rebuilding team that failed to make the playoffs to league champs, a team set to play in CONCACAF Champions League in 2014.
The super bonus here is that Gruenebaum is a local kid, from Overland Park, Kan. He was an All-American at Blue Valley North High School and the Player of the Year in Kansas.
Columbus officials were willing to let Gruenebaum go because they signed Steve Clark, who is just back into the United States after four seasons in Norway.
You never want to fall behind, let alone the way Columbus did in Philadelphia (a deflection of a long shot wrong-footing Andy Gruenebaum early), but the Crew did themselves no favors over an early, seven minute span that defined Wednesday’ match at PPL Park. Poor defending on crosses by Sebastien Le Toux helped put three goals between teams that could end up battling for fifth in the East, the Union using their 3-0 lead to cruise past Columbus and pull even with Houston and Kansas City.
All three teams have 22 points, though the Dynamo have played the fewert number of games. Potentially more important for Philadelphia, they’re now three points clear of sixth place, a spot occupied by the improving New England Revolution.
Columbus, conversely, miss their chance to jump into fifth, a place they would hold had they won in Philadelphia. Instead, Robert Warzycha’s team sits seventh, two points behind the Revolution.
The slide started in the 25th minute when a speculative shot from Brian Carroll deflected off Eric Gehrig and into the right of goal, Andy Gruenebaum moving the opposite direction before the deflection. Four minutes later, Sheanon Williams slipped his man at the far post on a corner kick, his athletic finish of an open volley doubling Philadelphia’s lead. Two minutes later, Conor Casey beat his man near post on a Le Toux cross, heading home the game’s final goal in the 31st minute.
Perhaps as remarkable as Philadelphia’s first half explosion, Jack McInerney was not involved. The Union striker came into the night with a league-leading 10 goals yet wasn’t apart of his team’s onslaught. Now with 22 goals through 15 games, the Union finally have more non-McInerney goals than Jack Mac specials.