Grella “Incredibly Sharp” in Battle for Starting Spot

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

Mike Grella has clawed his way back into the starting XI after Daniel Royer’s injury and his efforts have not gone unnoticed.

The veteran midfielder was heralded by Jesse Marsch this week as being “incredibly sharp” in training.

“Mike’s been back in the line-up,” said Marsch. “He’s been a guy we’ve counted on in a big way for two years.”

Grella lost his starting spot to Royer who looked tremendous before suffering a hamstring injury that will keep him out, perhaps through the end of the regular season. In his short spell as a starter, Royer had one goal in three starts. His work on the wing was quickly improving, creating the kind of synergy with Bradley Wright-Phillips that existed last season with Lloyd Sam.

Mike Grella has been a fixture and a standout performer for New York, playing in 33 of 34 games for the team last season. His efforts effectively kept Designated Player Gonzalo Veron on the bench. At his best, Grella came to optimize Jesse Marsch’s high press style and stood relatively healthy given the high number of minutes he played. This season, Grella’s play has dropped somewhat and Royer seized the opportunity to fill the void.

However, injury has afforded Mike a second opportunity and he is not passing it up.

“I think we’re all excited that he’s back on track,” said Marsch about Grella’s form. “He’s ready to push hard and be ready for the post season.”