Sporting KC

Sporting KC’s Kronberg handles challenge of being backup goalkeeper

Unless something disastrous happens, Eric Kronberg probably won’t play a minute Saturday when Sporting Kansas City welcomes Colorado to Sporting Park and tries to snap the Rapids’ nine-match unbeaten streak.

Kronberg isn’t likely to budge from the bench unless Sporting KC’s first-string goalkeeper, two-time MLS All-Star Jimmy Nielsen, gets injured or picks up a red card.

Such is the life of a backup goalkeeper.

“The challenge every game is to go out like you’re starting even though you’re not and most likely won’t play,” Kronberg said. “You have to make the most of the chances you do get. It’s a difficult job mentally, but I love this team and this profession is unbelievable, so I wouldn’t change it for the world. But obviously, I would love to play.”

Of course, that’s one reason the CONCACAF Champions League has been important for Kronberg this season.

“(The Champions League games) mean a lot obviously,” Kronberg said. “I love getting the chance to play. I love the game and getting the chance to play with my teammates. It’s good to show what I can do and what I’m capable of, which is important for me because my chances are limited. If I show I can play and do well in high-stakes games, it will help me in my future.”

These days, Kronberg appreciates any meaningful playing time he can muster.

“He deserves those games,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He’s really progressing as a keep and, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have one ounce of doubt when he’s back there.”

Kronberg, 30, is Sporting KC’s longest-tenured player. He was drafted from the University of California with the 40th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2006 MLS SuperDraft.

Kronberg spent that first season on loan to Miami FC and didn’t log a single minute in MLS play the next three seasons.

He made his MLS debut against the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 23, 2010, recording three saves in a 4-1 win. In 2011, Kronberg made four appearances, including three starts.

Of course, he hasn’t seen action in an MLS match since Nielsen was suspended June 12, 2011 — a span of 82 games.

“I look at other backup goalkeepers, who are starting now who have gone what I’ve gone through, who get their opportunity and it’s tough to sit here and wait,” said Kronberg, who is no longer troubled by shoulder and back injuries that cropped up in recent years. “I want to play.”

That chance might be coming.

“He’s done a great job with the limited opportunities that he’s had and it’s great for the team to have such depth in that position,” Vermes said.

Of course, with Kronberg’s contract being up after the season, he might not be with Sporting KC much longer.

He’s regarded as one of the top backup goalkeepers in MLS, so somebody might take a chance on the 6-foot-5, 201-pound Santa Rosa, Calif., native — or an opportunity might arise overseas.

“I would love to be the No. 1 in Kansas City,” Kronberg said. “It’s a great place to play and the fans are fantastic. The facilities and coaching staff I really enjoy. My No. 1 goal is to be the starter here, but I’d rather start somewhere else than be the backup here my whole career. … I’d love to stay here, but I want to play.”