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New Sporting KC goalkeeper is homegrown talent with championship roots

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The rich are getting richer.

Sporting Kansas City is less than two weeks removed from winning the MLS Cup. The club has signed a new goalie who brings championships of his own to town.

You’ll excuse Andy Gruenebaum if he’s spending time on cloud nine. He’s been dreaming of this occasion for years.

Sporting Kansas City needed a new goalkeeper to succeed the retiring Jimmy Neilsen. The Blues grabbed Gruenebaum in a trade with the Columbus Crew late last week. The Blue Valley North graduate has spent eight years in net, snatching the 2008 MLS Cup, and an impressive 277 saves along the way.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic to be here,” Gruenebaum said. “My wife and I have always talked about moving here eventually. This just kind of put it into motion.”

John Pascarella is SKC’s goalkeeper coach. He says Gruenebaum’s know-how is just what Sporting Kansas City needs to replace Neilsen.

“The thing that’s best about his game is he’s a great shotstopper,” Pascarella said.  “His distribution is good, and he’s pretty strong in the air. His strength is between the sticks.”

At Blue Valley North High, Tom Holland couldn’t be happier for his one-time keeper.  Gruenebaum helped Holland win one of his five state championships with the Mustangs by holding off St. Thomas Aquinas in overtime thriller back in 2000.

“Something I remember about him is his confidence,” Holland said. “The way he went around doing things and the way he loved the sport.”

Expectations from loved ones are merely the tip of the iceberg for Gruenebaum. He’ll join a Sporting Kansas City club that is less than two weeks removed from winning the MLS Cup — and he’ll have to compete for that job to replace Neilsen in goal.

“In no way do I feel like this is my job, or that I should be handed anything,” Gruenebaum said. “I want to come in and work and let the pieces fall where they may.”

He’ll get his chance to do it. In the town he loves the most.

Gruenebaum isn’t the only Blue Valley North product playing for Sporting KC. He’ll compete with fellow Mustang alum Jon Kempin for the starting spot in goal, when preseason camp opens in mid-January.

Click here to see Sean McDowell’s FOX 4 Facebook page.

Click here to check out Andy Gruenebaum’s Twitter feed.

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