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"He’s an amazing technical player," said RSL GM Garth Lagerwey. "It’s not that it goes unnoticed, but it goes under-appreciated sometimes."
Since his acquisition, he’s logged more than 11,000 minutes and has started 125 matches across all competitions for RSL in his five years with the club. He’s coming off a career high a year ago with five goals and five assists.
About Ned Grabavoy
Age » 30
Position » Midfielder
Hometown » Joliet, Ill.
Pro career » L.A. Galaxy (2004-2006), Columbus Crew (2006-2007), San Jose Earthquakes (2007-2009), Real Salt Lake (2009-present)
International career » Mainstay with U.S. youth national teams from U-14, U-18 and U-20 programs
Acquired by RSL » On March 3, 2009 in MLS Waiver Draft
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"He knows how much he means to the team, he knows how much he means to the club and myself, and that’s all that really matters to Ned," said RSL coach Jeff Cassar.
And playing soccer while maintaining a spirited edge is what keeps Grabavoy, now 30, feeling like he’s improving his talents and ability to comprehend the game each year. He’s also fueled by the fear of failure, having grown up and seen several talented players — whether it be in high school, college or with youth national teams — around him fizzle out due to a number of circumstances.
"From the time I was young, I always kind of played and trained and worked with the thought process of, ‘I was scared,’" he explained. "I was scared because I was considered the best player in my age group and so I just always thought of myself as in front of this pack — everyone’s in my rear-view, but everyone’s chasing me as fast as they could."
"It just keeps getting better" » For 45-plus minutes, Grabavoy helped man the midfield, as he does so often, known as Grabavoys. He celebrated Alvaro Saborio’s 80th-minute goal last March 16, a goal that earned RSL a 1-1 draw.
That match changed everything. The landscape of Grabavoy’s career, however bumpy it was to start, now has more of a purpose when he goes home to James and Charlotte.
The ‘S’ just served — and still serves — as a reminder. How he views his life, his profession, and how he approaches each and every day changed the minute his children were born. And those dire moments, those nights when Grabavoy stayed up staring through the glass and watching machines help inject air into the lungs of his child turned out to be another moment the Grabavoys would win.
"I caught a little flak after it, and it won’t happen again," Grabavoy said. "I wasn’t trying to make a big thing or big statement. For me, it was just for myself and for my family."
Over a year later, the twins are like any normal 1-year-olds. They are, according to Ned, "all over the place and have completely different personalities." The first game they saw dad play live in was the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7, when RSL lost in a penalty-kick shootout. They were in attendance for this year’s home opener, a 1-1 draw against L.A.
"You go through life the last 10 years as a professional soccer player, traveling all over the country to play in big games against great players — I’m completely happy with everything off the field — and I think to myself, ‘My life is unbelievable," Grabavoy said. "Now I’m married and have kids and every time I go home from training, I just honestly look and think I don’t know if it could get that much better than this, but it keeps getting better. It keeps getting better."
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