Crew View: Bad luck leads to Gruenebaum red card

OBETZ, Ohio — Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum may have gotten red-carded on Tuesday night in a friendly against Newcastle United, but he he says he would make the same play again.

Gruenebaum sprinted out of the box in an attempt to snuff a partial break by Demba Ba in the 45th minute, but handled the ball with his hands, prompting referee Michael Kennedy to show the 'keeper the exit.

MLS pool goalkeeper Chris Konopka finished the match and allowed two goals in the 3-0 loss at Crew Stadium.

While Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha and his counterpart Alan Pardew expressed disappointment that Kennedy didn’t give some leniency because it was an exhibition match, Gruenebaum knew he was in trouble when the ball hit him.

“I slid,” he said after the match. “I didn’t try to play it with my hand. I tried to get it with my chest and pushing it away. It ended up hitting me a little bit in the hand but I’ve seen much worse. It’s a tough call.”

Gruenebaum started a second straight match for the injured William Hesmer but didn’t last long.

“I made a decision and I made it 100 percent,” Gruenebaum said. “Looking back, if I stay home, he’s in on a breakaway. If I come out, maybe I get a touch to it.”

Goalkeeper coach Vadim Kirillov didn’t fault Gruenebaum.

“He did well, just too bad the ball hit him,” he said. “He was foot-first then the ball went into his hand. Otherwise he would have made a good save.”

Pardew said the ruling changed the match, and not for the better in the Magpies’ final of three preseason matches in the United States.

“The referee, probably knowing that he’d be criticized heavily if he didn’t send him off fully, thought that was the correct decision,” he said. “I’d prefer he hadn’t. Of course, we didn’t want that for the Crew. Certainly, the second half was a little bit easier for us.”

Fortunately for Columbus, Gruenebaum’s red card has no carryover to Saturday’s MLS match at Real Salt Lake. That could be critical if Hesmer (left quad strain) is not cleared after Thursday’s practice. Third-string 'keeper Alex Riggs, who did not dress Tuesday because of a bruised hip, should be available if needed.

HURTING

Forward Jeff Cunningham’s drive for one more goal to become the all-time leader in MLS may be on hold. He was scheduled to have an MRI on his inflamed right knee on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Shaun Francis played 45 minutes on Tuesday coming off a hamstring strain, but Warzycha said Wednesday that the left back injured his groin for the second time this season and is doubtful for Saturday.

Defenders Rich Balchan and Danny O’Rourke and midfielders Tony Tchani and Dilly Duka are out, while forwards Emilio Rentería and Andrés Mendoza are questionable.

Rentería played the first half against Newcastle after returning for 24 minutes last Saturday vs. Portland following a 10-game absence due to a left quad strain. Mendoza did not play in the friendly or against the Timbers.