Days after former Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen called it a career, he was summoned to managerial work. Nielsen was named the manager of the Oklahoma City Energy Football Club, according to the team’s web site.
OKC Energy and Orlando City SC are Sporting Kansas City’s two USL Pro affiliates. Two Sporting KC players will be loaned to both clubs each, as part of the deal.
“My family and I are excited to take on this new challenge and I look forward to the start of my coaching career in Oklahoma City,” said Nielsen to reporters. “To remain a part of the Sporting Kansas City family and to take some of what I have learned from all of my coaches over the years, including Peter Vermes and staff, is an opportunity I embrace.”
The move means Nielsen’s backup from 2013, Eric Kronberg, will most likely be the starter next season. The club’s longest tenured active player with Sporting, Kronberg signed to a new contract. As per club and league policy, the terms were not disclosed.
“Eric has been a solid contributor here at this club over the last eight years. He has truly been a team guy with an incredible work ethic. He is more than deserving of the opportunity to be our No. 1,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes told SportingKC.com’s Kurt Austin. “From a coaching staff point of view, it is moments like these that are the feel good moments: when you see that a guy has put so much work in and dedicated so much time to an opportunity and now it is right in front of him. We believe he is absolutely ready for this.”
“I’m really happy to be back with Sporting KC,” Kronberg said. “Kansas City has become my home over the past eight years and I’m very much looking forward to the future and stepping into a starting role with this club.”
Only Davy Arnaud, Kerry Zavagnin and Preki have been with the club longer than Kronberg, who is tied for fourth all-time in years served at Sporting KC with Jack Jewsbury, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia and Chris Klein.
Seasons with team in club history:
Davy Arnaud 10
Kerry Zavagnin 9
Eric Kronberg 8
Jack Jewsbury 8
Jimmy Conrad 8
Nick Garcia 8
Chris Klein 8
Andy Gruenebaum will most likely be slotted behind Kronberg at goalkeeper. He knows that when the opportunity comes, he will need to take advantage of it. Gruenebaum, a native of Overland Park, Kan., was acquired from the Columbus Crew for a second-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
“I don’t expect anything to be handed to me, no matter what my resume says,” Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com’s Steve Brisendine. “I am competing with two unbelievable goalkeepers, and whatever my role is on this team I will contribute in any way I am asked.
“I am so excited to be coming home and playing in front of my family and friends. I have always known how amazing the fans, club, and ownership are here in KC, and I look forward to helping to contribute to another championship in my hometown.”
“He is a great addition to our team and a complement to our goalkeepers,” Vermes said of Gruenebaum. “We needed someone with a lot of experience because we’re in multiple major competitions in 2014.”