Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1/21/09: Grendi Excited To Be Suiting Up With New Crew

Article from the Daily Pennsylvanian entitled "Suiting Up For New Crew" by Joe Sanfilippo:
Like many Penn seniors, Alex Grendi spent his winter break looking for a job.

But instead of on-campus interviews, he did his networking on the soccer field.

The Columbus Crew selected Grendi 45th overall in last Thursday's Major League Soccer SuperDraft. He was the final pick in the third round.

As his college career wound down, Grendi's dream of playing professional soccer came into focus.

Coaching representatives from each NCAA conference nominate players for the MLS combine, in which participants are judged by MLS scouts.

"Once the season ended, I made a few calls to guys I know in the [MLS]," Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. "He was one of the players the Ivy League coaches put forward."

The combine - which took place in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., - lasted four days and divided participants into four teams. After a lengthy fitness and training session, the teams played one game on each of the first two days, then had a day off before the third game.

A daily regimen of running, lifting and indoor training prepared Grendi in the weeks leading up to the combine.

"I think he got better as the combine wore on," Fuller said, noting Grendi played his best on the last day.

The Spring Harbor, N.Y., native goes from one championship team to another; his Quakers shared last year's Ivy title, while the Crew are the reigning MLS champs.

With nearly everyone returning from last year's squad, Columbus used the draft to deepen its roster, selecting two defensive backs with the 30th and 60th picks, tagging Grendi as an attacking midfielder and forward.

Grendi follows former Red and Blue keepers Matt Haefner, who graduated in 2002, and Dan Cepero, to the professional level.

Cepero, once Grendi's teammate, was taken in the 2007 Supplemental Draft before graduating and was also on the losing side of the Crew's 2008 championship run as a member of the New York Red Bulls.

"It is really great to have a friend and teammate fresh in the league," Grendi said in an e-mail. "Cepero has just gone through this process and he is going to have a huge influence on what is going to happen over the next few months."

Three of Grendi's classmates also have their sights set on professional soccer. Drew Healy, Ryan Porch and Omid Shokoufandeh attended the InfoSport Combine in Orlando, Fla., over winter break.

While Porch is nursing an injury, Healy and Shokoufandeh also hope to try out in Europe in the coming months.

Harvard senior Michael Fucito was the only other Ancient Eight player drafted, going 46th overall to the Seattle Sounders FC, one spot after Grendi.

In his four years as a midfielder and forward for the Quakers, Grendi scored eight goals and is tied for third all-time with 20 career assists. He was voted the team's offensive Most Valuable Player twice, capping off his senior campaign with first team All-Ivy honors.

As a rookie in the MLS, Grendi will need all the experience he can get; a new rule decreasing roster sizes makes it more difficult for younger players to stay on a squad if they don't have an early impact.

Fuller said Grendi's journey will be challenging, but has no doubt his former star has the ability to play in the league and be successful.

"We want to be a program that gives kids opportunities," Fuller said. "Whether that is on Wall Street or in the world of soccer."

Grendi is slated to graduate this spring after majoring in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. His plans may change, however, as the MLS season begins in March.

"I have only heard great things about Columbus, Ohio," Grendi said. "I am really excited to get started in a new city."


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