COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum showed no hesitation going up to pull down crosses last Saturday at Toronto FC despite risking his safety.
He’s also ready to put a vise grip on the starting job when incumbent William Hesmer returns from injury.
Gruenebaum, who has started all three matches with shutouts in the past two, was a beast in the 1-0 win against Toronto FC last week, absorbing crunching hits by Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson, among others, while maintaining his property in front of the goal.
WATCH: Gruenebaum thinks fast vs. Montreal
“We’re a little upset with the treatment Andy got, but he did a great job of coming out,” defender Eric Gehrig said. “He didn’t shy away. That’s who you want in goal. He never backs down.”
Gruenebaum said he came away from the match battered but none the worse for wear thanks to his recovery method: “Epson salt baths and Aleve, and I’m good to go,” as he puts it
The challenge for Gruenebaum in his seventh season with the Crew is to win the starting job from Hesmer, who suffered an ankle sprain in preseason and may not dress Saturday when the Crew host New York (3 pm ET, Univision Deportes, MLS LIVE).
Gruenebaum played just two matches last season – shutouts against Portland and Real Salt Lake – but puts little stock in having surpassed that games played total already.
“I wouldn’t call it satisfaction,” he said. “I want to play the entire season, and I want to play well. More importantly, I want to win games, make the playoffs and make a deep run.”
He’ll go as far as to say he’s not playing the best of his career.
“Back in club ball, I was really good indoors. I made like 90 saves a game, plus I had hips that could bend,” he joked before turning serious, “I’m feeling confident. The guys in front of me are helping out big time and making my job easier.”
Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha adds that at no point in Gruenebaum’s career did he settle for being the backup.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “More than anything, he is in competition with Will every year.”
Duka not there yet
Although Dilly Duka spent some time on Thursday playing left midfield with the first unit, Warzycha said he has not fully recovered from the strained hamstring that has cost him the past two matches.
“We have to be very careful,” the coach said. “We’re going to see what happens Saturday, but probably he is going to be on the bench – a good 45 minutes is better than an average 90.”
Warzycha said forward Tommy Heinemann will have exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday, at which time it will be determined if the injury is more serious.
Meanwhile, defender Danny O’Rourke (knee) is questionable for Saturday. Julius James, however, started full training this week after offseason shoulder surgery. Warzycha thinks the defender will be ready for the April 14 match at Philadelphia.