COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tommy Heinemann can handle the cumbersomeness of getting around on crutches. In fact, he’s quite proficient after several previous surgeries.
But it’s days like Thursday, when the Columbus Crew traveled to Portland for Saturday’s match (10:30 pm ET, watchi LIVE online), that has the forward feeling melancholy as he copes with not playing again this season.
“It’s was weird watching from afar,” Heinemann told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s tough not being there, the camaraderie with the guys and the coaches. When you go on the road in this league, you have to band together. You miss that.”
Heinemann, who underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee three weeks ago, sat with other injured forwards Aaron Schoenfeld and Olman Vargas as the Crew went through training before departing for the Pacific Northwest. But unlike their injuries, his return is measured in months (nine to 12), not weeks.
“I’m trying to be patient,” he said. “It drives you nuts at times, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I’m still going for [physical therapy] and rehab. Once I get off the crutches, I’ll be able to be more aggressive in that nature.”
Heinemann has a bachelor’s degree from Rockhurst (Mo.) University, but is considering taking classes either online or at school in the Columbus area to fill his free time. He would also like to get involved in coaching to keep him busy.
“I want to stay sharp in my head,” he said.
And his head underwent a transformation soon after surgery, when he sheared his trademark bushy hair for a cropped look and severely trimmed his caveman beard.
Despite the new look, he said he is still the same self-driven player who has overcome several other operations – including one to his knee prior to joining the Crew in 2010 and a procedure on his foot this past offseason.
“I’ve been on crutches before,” he said. “The time out from playing only ups my fight inside. When I came back from my first injury in college, I remember I was bigger, faster, stronger, so I’m focusing on doing that and when I come back it’s going to make me even better.”
The league has turned down the Crew’s request to sign and assign an emergency pool goalkeeper to them as a replacement for William Hesmer, who underwent microfracture surgery April 12 and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Columbus will go with starter Andy Gruenebaum and rookie Matt Lampson while looking for at least one local ‘keeper for practices as well as occasionally using players from the Crew Soccer Academy.
The Crew may have to use Gruenebaum as the backup to Lampson for Reserve League matches.