Monday saw two MLS trades take place that both involved a goalkeeper and the Columbus Crew. First came the news that Columbus traded away their 2015 fourth round draft pick to the Seattle Sounders for goalie Steve Clark. It was an odd move at first because the Crew already had an established keeper in Andy Gruenebaum, but a few hours later reports appeared saying that Gruenebaum had been traded. Sporting Kansas City struck a deal to send a second round pick in the 2016 MLS Super Draft for the rights to Gruenebaum.
Clark will come to Columbus being the favorite to win the starting job, but he will have to compete with 2013 draftee Daniel Withrow, Waiver Draft addition Brad Stuver, and Matt Lampson, who started 13 games for the Crew in 2013, having 43 saves and 18 goals against. Clark does not have any experience playing in the MLS, but has spent the last four seasons with Norwegian club Honefoss BK and was one of the best keepers in the league.
Columbus is in renovation mode, as new ownership and a new head coach are preparing for their first season at the helm of the Black-and-Gold. Don’t expect them to be finished with this move. The Crew still need some help in the midfield and could use more attacking power.
In Kansas City, Gruenebaum fills a roster spot left empty by the retirement of MLS Cup hero Jimmy Nielsen. Nielsen played every single minute of every game for the last two years, and now Sporting will have to replace his efforts plus find extra depth for their matches in the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League.
Gruenebaum must already compete for his job against young, talented backups in Eric Kronberg and Jon Kempin. However, Gruenebaum has the most MLS experience among the SKC goalies since he’s played the last eight seasons for the Crew. This previous year saw him start 21 games with 71 saves and 28 goals against. His 2012 year was much better, when he was a finalist for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.