OBETZ, Ohio — Even though William Hesmer lost to Colorado on Aug. 5 in his return from injury after backup Andy Gruenebaum had posted consecutive shutouts, Crew coach Robert Warzycha leaves no doubt who will be in goal Saturday against New England (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online)
“We’ve been playing with Will all season,” Warzycha said. “He was doing very well before he got injured.”
Hesmer allowed two goals against the Rapids — a wicked strike from distance by Brian Mullan and a counterattack finish from Omar Cummings — but is still fifth in goals-against average (1.05) and tied for third with seven shutouts.
When Hesmer was ruled out because of a left strained quadriceps muscle, Gruenebaum blanked Portland (1-0) on July 23 in his season debut. A week later, he won 2-0 at Real Salt Lake, all despite breaking the middle finger on his right hand last month.
“It’s one of those things where if you get a chance to play you’re not going to let a little finger get in the way no matter how bad it is,” Gruenebaum said.
Warzycha is happy to have two experienced goalkeepers at his disposal.
“It’s still a competition,” the coach said. “I’m not saying Will is going to play every game the rest of the season, but if he is going to be solid, he is going to play most of the games.”
Hesmer doesn’t feel he should lose his job because of an injury.
“I come to practice every day and work hard and every day is a competition, and I’ve proved that I’m the better goalkeeper, hopefully,” he said. “Before the injury, I was playing pretty well and in good form. Even after the injury, when I was coming back to training, I’ve been in maybe even a little better form, so you’ve got to weigh all those things.”
Gruenebaum, who has backed Hesmer since early in the 2007 season, accepts his role.
“It’s obviously his job right now and all I can do is push him and control, when I do play, how I play,” he said. “Do I want to be playing? Of course.”
Gruenebaum has struggled with hip problems the past two years and missed most of this year’s preseason.
“He is a very good pro,” Warzycha said of Gruenebaum. “He’s not about being a No. 1 goalkeeper right now because all these years he’s fighting injuries, one after the other.”
Avoiding situations like that is why Hesmer recently took time to heal to help the Crew (9-7-7) try to remain first in the Eastern Conference over the final 11 games.
“I had a knee injury then I had a quad strain starting to form,” he said. “It was all about preventing that from getting to the point where it would put me out a month, two months, three months or the season was in jeopardy, so we shut it down. We did some strengthening, refreshed a little bit. It’s amazing what a week [off] can do for your body.”