In an effort to methodically build the depth of the San Jose Earthquakes roster, head coach Dominic Kinnear was very active in the offseason MLS draft carousel. He picked up nine players, none a household name, but guys that were expected to push for first team minutes. One such selection was goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who was selected in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft. But rather than join the Quakes, Gruenebaum elected to retire from MLS.
"He's probably not going to come join us this year," said Kinnear after the team's first training session of the preseason, a training session at which Gruenebaum was not in attendance. "He expressed a desire to stay in his hometown in Kansas to start a family. We made a big push to bring him here, but it's probably not going to happen. If he shows up, I'll be surprised."
The Earthquakes selected Gruenebaum with the second overall pick in the 2014 MLS Re-Entry Draft with an eye on having the 32-year old veteran push fifth-year pro David Bingham for the starting goalkeeper role. Gruenebaum played the first eight years of his MLS career with the Columbus Crew before spending one year with Sporting Kansas City. The move to Kansas marked a homecoming of sorts for Gruenebaum, and when San Jose selected him last December, he decided to call it quits on his playing career and take the next step -- joining the Sporting KC television broadcasting team as its color commentator.
"It was a tough decision to hang up the boots," said Gruenebaum to the Kansas City Star, "but at the end of the day, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to stay in KC and be a part of this amazing club."
So where does that leave the Earthquakes at the goalkeeper position? In addition to Bingham, the Quakes have Bryan Meredith on the roster. Meredith started for San Jose against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in last summer's international friendly at the last sporting event at Candlestick Park. The Earthquakes third 'keeper is Keasel Broome, an unsigned rookie selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Waiting in the wings could be current Santa Clara University goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh, a product of the Quakes academy and a player eligible for a Homegrown Player contract.
"It looks like David Bingham will be the top guy going into the season," said Kinnear, "so there's a lot of pressure on him and his preseason. It's important for the other guys in the goalkeeping pool to push him."
Bingham, who joined the Earthquakes in 2011 as part of an MLS weighted lottery, has played in the shadow of veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch for the previous four seasons. With the first team, the Cal graduate and former Generation Adidas signing has made only five first-team appearances. To secure playing time and to build up his experience, Bingham played on loan with the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL and IF Strommen of Norwegian First Division in 2014
"David has waited and worked hard," said Kinnear. "He's not a young boy anymore. He's in his mid-twenties now and I think this preseason is going to be really important for him, because he's going to get some important minutes to get him ready."
With Gruenebaum hanging up his gloves and with Busch now a member of the Chicago Fire, the Earthquakes net is the 25-year old Bingham's to lose.
"This is my fifth year," said Bingham. "I'm ready to step in and fill that role. I plan on opening up the stadium in goal. That's my game plan."