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Bet you didn't know Sporting Kansas City lost to the New England Revolution 2-0 last Saturday night in a Major League Soccer game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Bet you didn't know that the American soccer league shows signs of growth as 14,806 fans showed up in the New England Patriots stadium configured for soccer to seat 20,000.

Bet you didn't know Sporting followed up last week's loss with a 2-0 win against the Columbus Crew on Sunday, the same day they<NO1><NO> received their rings as MLS champions a year ago.

Bet you didn't know that Eric Kronberg — raised in Bennett Valley, educated at Montgomery High and Cal — accepted one of those rings.

Bet you didn't know that Kronberg is now the starting goalie for Sporting.

"It was like one of those things where people would ask you what you want to be when you grow up," Kronberg said earlier this week, "and I'd say 'a professional soccer player' without really thinking about it.

"Well, it really happened."

It happened because Kronberg persevered. Now 30, he has lasted eight long years in the MLS background, until now. He toiled mostly behind Kevin Hartman and then starting and championship goalie Jimmy Nielsen, who retired during the off-season. When that moment was announced, Kronberg's moment arrived.

"It was a pretty exciting time," Kronberg admitted. "When Jimmy retired after the championship, I felt like I was the guy. And I went in and told them during the offseason that if I'm not the guy then I want to go elsewhere."

Well, now 30 years old and married with his first child, it turned out he was the guy that Sporting wanted and so far, so good. Really good.

His .86 goals against average headed into the weekend is the best among all MLS goalies who have played three or more games. And after Sunday, he has a league-leading four shutouts this season. He would have five, but last Saturday at New England, the Revolution scored on a misdirected kick in stoppage time against a Sporting defense playing a man down and then added a penalty kick goal for a 2-0 win.

Sporting is currently 4-2-2 and in a three-way share of the Eastern Conference lead.

"Eric has been very patient but more so he has always been a very team-oriented guy. Even when he had to sit behind some people, he always continued to keep a great attitude and he worked. I think that's one of the reasons why he's been given his opportunity," said Sporting manager Peter Vermes. "At the same time, while he's been able to see a lot of things and work on a lot of things, it has not had the same wear and tear on his body, which I think is really beneficial in the long run."

Kronberg, who tried baseball and basketball as a kid, gravitated to soccer because it was something he could play in the back yard. That led to high school soccer and several seasons playing for Santa Rosa United.

"I think we had such good teams then because we had the same corps of guys year after year," he said.

His stick-to-it mindset has seen him through at the professional level.

After high school, he received a scholarship to play at Fresno State, but after a year that school dropped men's soccer.

"I was lucky enough to get an offer then from Cal," he said, "and I learned a lot there about the position. I owe Cal a lot."

He was drafted in 2006 and until this season he basically rode the bench for eight seasons. "It definitely was difficult," he admitted, "but I stuck with it. It was like I was a horse and they kept dangling a carrot out there in front of me. But you never knew what was going to happen.

"There could have been an injury and I would have been on the field any minute. I had to be ready all the time. I didn't have a whole lot of options. Fortunately, the coaches here knew me and liked me."

His current goalkeeper coach at Sporting, John Pascarella echoed that sentiment. "The fact that he has been patient has opened up a lot of opportunities. He may not have looked at them that way initially, but the fact that he got to work with two of the better goalkeepers to have ever played in the MLS has to be a benefit to him," Pascarella said.

Now, maybe more taxing than his day job is keeping up with Kaitlin Lee, his month-old daughter. She is the first of what Eric and wife Jennifer hope will be more. So, what is more difficult — quieting a crying baby daughter at 3 a.m. or saving a penalty kick?

"I don't know, stopping a PK can be pretty tough. But . . . " and he laughed at the thought of the other task.