Kris Gruenebaum used to drive past Sporting Park at the Legends and wish she could see her son play there.
Now, after eight seasons of watching him from afar while he was playing for the Columbus Crew, her wish finally came true.
Sporting Kansas City announced Monday that it had added Overland Park native Andy Gruenebaum to the roster in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
“It’s amazing,” Kris said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up because it would be too good to be true to have him come home, so we waited until the ink was dry and let out a big sigh of relief.”
The trade came less than a week after veteran goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, 36, announced his retirement. Gruenbaum, a 30-year-old Blue Valley North graduate, joins Eric Kronberg, 30, Jon Kempin, 20, in the hunt for the starting job in 2014.
“Andy is a very capable goalkeeper, someone who has been successful in Major League Soccer and has had a lot of games in the league,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “He is a great addition to our team and a complement to our goalkeepers. We needed someone with a lot of experience because we’re in multiple major competitions in 2014.”
Gruenebaum appeared in 33 games for the Crew in 2012, posting 13 wins, 124 saves and eight shutouts. He started 21 games this season while battling a shoulder injury and recorded 71 saves and four shutouts with five wins.
While at Blue Valley North, Gruenebaum led the Mustangs to a state title in 2000 and picked up All-American and NSCAA Kansas Player of the Year honors. He also set a few school records along the way, allowing just seven goals during the 2000 season for a .500 goals-against average.
From there, he went to the University of Kentucky, where he posted a 0.91 career goals-against average and 21 shutouts in 66 games.
“He is a very athletic keeper, very mobile — he gets off his lines well,” Blue Valley North soccer coach Tom Holland said. “He is probably in the prime of his career right now, and hopefully he gets a chance to play.”
Gruenebaum joins Kempin, a fellow Blue Valley North graduate, Matt Besler (Blue Valley West), Seth Sinovic (Rockhurst), Kevin Ellis (Oak Park) and Christian Duke (Shawnee Mission South) as local players on the Sporting KC roster.
Gruenebaum said coming home to Kansas City to play professional soccer — with a team that just won the MLS Cup, no less — is a dream come true.
“I could not be more excited to come back home and play in front of family and friends,” Gruenebaum said. “The ownership, coaching staff, players and fans associated with Sporting KC are first class, and I look forward to working with two amazing goalkeepers to help win another championship.
“I would like to thank Peter and the rest of the organization for giving me this opportunity. My wife and I are ecstatic to be able to call Kansas City home once again.”