Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg finally gets off the sidelines 

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Then, on December 16, Sporting traded for Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum while Kronberg was still hashing over whether to sign a new contract with Sporting or look elsewhere.

Gruenebaum, a Blue Valley North graduate, was a highly regarded MLS goalkeeper in 2012. Injuries limited his play in 2013, but he still came to Sporting as an established, experienced goalkeeper.

About two weeks later, Sporting and Kronberg reached a new deal. Not long after, the club announced that the starting job was his to lose.

"My main goal was to play," Kronberg says. "Before Jimmy retired, there wasn't a whole lot of talk about him retiring. There was some talk, but I wasn't exactly sure. Once he announced that ... that's when I really focused on Kansas City and playing."

Vermes says he's pleased with Kronberg's preseason play, praising the goalkeeper's distribution, meaning Kronberg's ability to get control of the ball and send it upfield to resume play. Goalkeepers are often seen as a last line of defense for a soccer team but can be effective as a first peg in an offensive system.

However, Kronberg has little margin for error with Gruenebaum waiting in the wings.

"I think he [Kronberg] will have a shorter leash," says Mike Kuhn, a longtime Sporting KC fan who follows the team on his blog, Down the Byline. "I don't think it will be necessarily short. Vermes has proven himself as one of those guys who will stick with a player a little bit longer, especially in goal. It's not an area I think you will want to make rash decisions."

The bench isn't a place Kronberg wants to return anytime soon.

"There's frustrations being a backup goalkeeper, especially for so long," Kronberg says from training camp in Orlando, Florida. "I'm a competitor and want to play as much as possible."


Kronberg grew up in Santa Rosa, California, the seat of Northern California's famed wine country.

Like plenty of American youngsters, Kronberg took up soccer at a young age. Like fewer American kids, Kronberg stuck with the sport. Even as a teenager, he sometimes took the backup-goalkeeper position but also got playing time at forward.

By the time he went to college, Kronberg was firmly entrenched as a netminder. He spent two years at Fresno State before transferring to the University of California–Berkeley.

The Kansas City Wizards drafted Kronberg in 2006, a year in which the team started Bo Oshoniyi in net. With little prospect of playing for the Wizards as a rookie, Kronberg was sent to Miami to gain seasoning with a minor league team.

By the time Kronberg returned to Kansas City in 2007, the Wizards had jettisoned Oshoniyi. But the team didn't see Kronberg as its starting goaltender. The franchise signed veteran MLS goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who held the spot until 2010.

Meanwhile, Kronberg didn't make an appearance in MLS play. He missed all of 2009 following surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.

The Wizards opted to bring in a new goalkeeper rather than promote from within in 2010, signing Nielsen from a professional club in Denmark, despite not knowing much about him.

Nielsen played well enough to keep the starting job that season, although the Wizards missed the playoffs. It would be the last season that the club would play in the outfield of CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

Kronberg made his first career MLS start in the final game of that season, a home game against the San Jose Earthquakes that closed out a forgettable era of soccer played in a baseball stadium.

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