Mike Grella helped form a lethal midfield during his time with the Red Bulls. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
In a matter of a few hours Friday afternoon, Mike Grella had ties to not one, not two, but three Major League Soccer teams.
The Colorado Rapids started the process by selecting Red Bulls midfielder Mike Grella in the 2017 MLS Re-Entry Draft.
They then turned around and traded the Glen Cove, N.Y. native to Columbus Crew SC for a second-round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.
Grella, 30, had been hampered by a knee injury this year, playing in only eight games before surgery shelved him for good. When healthy, he can be one of the best left-sided midfielders in the league.
Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter certainly thought so.
“Mike is an intelligent and technically gifted player whose profile fits our game model well,” he said in a statement. “His determination and strong work ethic will put him in an excellent position to return to top form.
“We believe that at his best, Mike Grella is an outstanding player in Major League Soccer.”
Grella played for the Red Bulls for the past three seasons, connecting for 16 goals and 13 assists in 73 appearances. His career year was in 2015, as he, Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty and Felipe formed arguably the best midfield in the league. Grella finished with nine goals and seven assists that year.
“Mike is a fierce competitor and the type of guy who gives everything for his teammates,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said in a statement. “He played a big role for us the past few years and helped establish who we are as a team. I’m grateful to have had Mike as a player and wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
With the Red Bulls, the 5-11, 180-lb. Grella scored the team’s 1,000th goal across all competitions against Columbus in March 2015. He also tallied the fastest goal in MLS history, finding the back of the net seven seconds into the match against the Philadelphia Union in October of that year.