Cole Grossman came to Real Salt Lake as a castoff from the Columbus Crew midfield. A fortunate addition in the 2012 Re-Entry Draft, he joined the club as a player others were certainly interested in — with one MLS club looking to make a trade for the player after RSL picked him up.
Grossman was brought into MLS by Columbus Crew in 2011: A graduate of Duke University, where RSL coach Jason Kreis and general manger Garth Lagerwey were both graduated, he was selected in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.
"Having two years of experience is really important for me," Grossman says. In those two years, he's gone from a bit-part player in his rookie year to a 500-minute contributor in his second year. At Real Salt Lake, he says, his goal isn't to continue as a small player in the side but as an important cog in the works.
"I think my goal is to come in and really show that I can be a starter in this league and will be a starter in this league," he says. "I've obviously started in this league, but it's different coming into a new team. I'm not coming into preseason hoping to just contend."
Learning the diamond midfield and its specific needs is a challenge for most players coming into Real Salt Lake — the narrow midfield, differentiating itself from more European counterparts, is equally tactically flexible and demanding. Grossman, who played a more defensive midfield role at Columbus Crew, says he's looking forward to figuring out exactly how he features in that.
"I'm excited to come in and learn all the intricacies of the system and the way the diamond works and the way those spots play," he said. "I think of myself first and foremost as a box-to-box midfielder, so I'm excited to hopefully have an opportunity to play in that role."
For his part, Kreis says he sees Grossman as a "two-way midfielder," someone suited more to the side of the diamond in Real Salt Lake's tactical setup than as a defensive midfielder. Teaching the player — and other players in the group — how the diamond works, how the players interact, is a key part of the 2013 preseason, he he says.
"We're excited to be coaching our system again, whereas the past few years, there hasn't been a lot of really breaking it down and coaching our system to players," Kreis says. "It's just sort of been like refreshers for everybody. We see this as a tremendous challenge. We see having new players, young players in our system as a challenge: Can we do it all over again?"
Grossman isn't exactly coming into a system that's new to most of his teammates, though. The influx of newcomers into the squad doesn't change the fact that many of RSL's mainstays remain. Learning from those players, Grossman says, is an exciting opportunity.
"It's exciting for any new player to come to a team with established MLS stars, and it's not just one or two — they have stars at a lot of different positions: Morales, Saborio, Beckerman, Rimando, Borchers, Beltran," Grossman says. "There are tons of good players, and it's really exciting to come into an organization that clearly produces talent, has talent, and values the players that they have. Any time you're coming into an organization like that, it's really exciting."
Of course, while there are plenty of Real Salt Lake veterans to contend with, the player Grossman might best be compared to, former RSL midfielder Will Johnson, has gone to Portland Timbers. Whether he's providing a two-way option from the get-go or offering stability from the bench, Cole Grossman has an opportunity to prove his value as his new club looks to push on in 2013.