Alumni Q&A: Penn men's soccer's Alex Grendi
In this week’s installment of Penn alumni Q&A, I had the opportunity to speak to Alex Grendi (2010), a former all-Ivy midfielder/forward. After finishing third in Penn’s all-time career assists list with 20, Grendi left school early in 2008 when he was selected by the Columbus Crew in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft in the third round. After a stint in professional soccer, Grendi started his own company, AX Soccer Tours, which aims to give American soccer players the opportunity to play the game overseas. I had the opportunity to speak to him and listen to him recount his time on Penn’s soccer team.
Daily Pennsylvanian: How was playing soccer at Penn?
Alex Grendi: Playing at Penn for me was the most incredible experience. The most important thing about selecting a school and the path for my college career was finding something that fit me both academically and athletically and Penn was at the top of both when I was there, so that was exactly what I was looking for.”
DP: Do you have a favorite memory with the team?
AG: Senior year, when we won the Ivy League championship in overtime against Harvard at home. That’s definitely one of the best moments of my college career. The Ivy League is always really tight and certain games are always really difficult especially when you’re away and senior year, I was walking up to a score a goal against Dartmouth away and we kind of snuck away with the win when maybe we shouldn’t have … and it ultimately helped us win the Ivy championship.
DP: How did Fuller help the team to be successful? Was he a strong locker room presence?
AG: I’d say that’s probably his best asset. He was incredible at speaking to the team and motivating us when we needed it most. He always found a way, sometimes a story, before a game, that completely ignited us and focused us in a way that a coach needs to and that’s definitely his best asset. He always found great ways to motivate us and get us up for games.
DP: At Penn, you averaged almost two shots a game and an assist every three games. Did you trust yourself more as a passer or shot-taker?
AG: I’d like to say that I like to be a passer, and I’m selfish, but unfortunately, I think the answer is that I wasn’t that great of a goal-scorer. I had a very strong shot but never seemed to keep it on target but as a wide player, going at players 1-on-1, there’s a lot of opportunities to dish off the ball and get crosses in. We always had a great supporting cast to help finish those plays.
DP: Do you think your assist totals would have been higher with an established scorer like senior forward Duke Lacroix, who has 24 career goals?
AG: I can’t say but we had some really good goal-scorers. We had guys that had ten-goal seasons sometimes. Twenty-four is a lot of goals. I think that could have contributed to more assists but I can’t say.
DP: What was the draft process like?
AG: Things happen really fast. You never know if you’re going to be selected for the MLS combine. You don’t know really how to prepare for that. It’s a little bit of a waiting game. Once you do get the call, as opposed to online, the light switches on. You have to prepare, get in shape. You only have so much time and the season’s over so you have to do a lot of training on your own and be sharp and you have 30 days to impress with players you’ve never played before in your life and sometimes a new position. So it’s definitely a difficult process. Immediately after those three days, you’re sitting around.
DP: And playing in the MLS versus the atmosphere at Penn?
AG: It’s completely different story. I went to not only an MLS team, but a former MLS champion so it was a star-studded cast of guys. They didn’t necessarily need me. I was just another player to add to the roster and was given the chance and opportunity to prove myself. And that was a whole new process. Being a rookie, starting from scratch, learning what it means to be a pro, and unfortunately for me, it probably took me the full year to figure out what that meant and what it was going to mean for me to play and by then it was a little too late.
DP: What are you up to now?
AG: I started a company call AX Soccer Tours. We help American players get signed overseas and in American clubs. It’s a global scouting agency for soccer.