OBETZ, Ohio – While those around him are angry that Andy Gruenebaum did not make the 18-man MLS All-Star roster to face Chelsea on July 25 in Chester, Pa., the Columbus Crew goalkeeper deflected any criticism as adroitly as he has done fielding shots all season.
Gruenebaum, a six-year backup who became the starter in 2012 when William Hesmer underwent season-ending hip surgery, is among the league leaders in most categories but was not selected by the fans’ vote to the original First XI, nor was he chosen Sunday by All-Star coach Ben of D.C. United, who went with Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy instead.
“My mom, especially, is upset,” Gruenebaum joked in an interview Monday with MLSsoccer.com. “She feels like she’s devoted a lot of time to voting. She’s probably the most upset and [my wife] Lacey’s pretty devastated.”
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Turning serious, Gruenebaum said that Kennedy was a good pick.
“First of all, it’s an honor to even be mentioned in the same category, so that’s cool,” Gruenebaum said. “Dan Kennedy – look at his body of work over the years. I admire and respect his game. He’s an amazing goalkeeper. You can’t really go wrong there, can you?”
Others on the Crew think otherwise, noting that while the teams have similar records (Columbus are 6-7-4; Chivas USA are 5-7-5), Gruenebaum has had to work with a backline decimated by injuries and has produced better numbers in some cases.
Kennedy’s 1.06 goals-against average is fourth in MLS, one spot above Gruenebaum (1.12). Gruenebaum has six shutouts (tied for fifth) compared to five for Kennedy. The Crew ‘keeper is third with 62 saves while Kennedy is No. 6 at 56. Gruenebaum’s 75.6 save percentage is also third while his counterpart is seventh at 71.8.
“It’s a like a smack in the face to us,” Crew defender Josh Williams said of Gruenebaum’s non-selection. “We’re one of the best defenses in the league and he’s the biggest part of it. He’s definitely deserving of it.
“He’s such a good guy. He just laughs it off and says the other guy [Kennedy] deserves it just as much.”
Gruenebaum said his only complaint about not going to the All-Star Game is that no Crew player has been selected since Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Chad Marshall in 2010.
“It could have shown off the whole team because we defend as a team,” Gruenebaum said. “It is what it is. It’s not at the top of the list of my concerns.”
Williams hopes allowing four goals in two losses in the games prior to Olsen’s announcement wasn’t a deciding factor because he feels the team let Gruenebaum down.
“He’s stood on his head so many times, so for the last two games, to do that is disappointing,” Williams said.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha reluctantly talked about the snub.
“That’s Ben’s choice,” he said. “There’s a lot of good goalkeepers in the league.”
Coincidentally, D.C. United visit Crew Stadium on Saturday but Gruenebaum said he is not out to show Olsen that he made a mistake by not choosing him.
“If you’re Olsen – he’s done an amazing job with [D.C. United] – it’s a tough decision either way,” he said. “There’s no extra motivation. The motivation is to win the game.”