LEWIS CENTER, Ohio – The Crew opened preseason camp on Thursday with an eye on facing Real Salt Lake in little more than a month in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha may have to close both eyes if his goalkeepers aren’t ready by then.
William Hesmer is still rehabbing the right shoulder he separated in the regular-season finale on Oct. 24 vs. Philadelphia and has not been cleared to start full contact although he is ahead of schedule in his comeback.
“It hasn’t been three months yet and I’m still out here doing all the handling [drills],” Hesmer said. “The only thing I’m not doing is hitting the ground.”
He doesn’t expect to be full-go for at least two more weeks, when the team is training in Arizona.
“That would give me two, three weeks to hopefully get ready for the Feb. 22 game,” he said. “That game might be iffy. Am I fit and sharp enough for the game? That’s the issue. Do I have enough practice to be ready for the game?”
[inline_node:322006]Backup Andy Gruenebaum played the two postseason games against Colorado and should be healthy for the RSL match, but he did not train Thursday because of a slight groin strain. He said his status is day-to-day.
The Crew do not have a third keeper signed yet, but Warzycha knows who will not be between the pipes against Real Salt Lake in an emergency.
“We’ll find somebody, and it’s not going to be Eddie Gaven,” he said jokingly.
Gaven, a midfielder, was forced to replace Hesmer late in the Philadelphia game because all three substitutes had been used. Although Gaven gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, his diving stop of Shea Salinas in the 88th minute helped preserve the 3-1 victory and earned him the NAPA Save of the Week for MLS.
“I can’t predict if they are going to be ready,” Warzycha said of Hesmer and Gruenebaum. “I hope they are. I don’t think we can spend the money on a goalie right now for that game.”
Former Ohio State and FC Dallas goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. is in camp as a trialist as is Jason Stenta, who played two games for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL) last year.
Two other Crew players who ended last season on the injured list are at opposite ends of their recovery.
Forward Emilio Renteria underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the regular season and missed the playoffs.
He was at full strength for the first day of training as evidenced by a booming blast into the upper right corner during a scrimmage.
Meanwhile, defender/midfielder Danny O'Rourke has no timetable for his return after surgery on the patella tendon in his left knee in November.
“It’s a pain schedule; [I'll return] whenever I feel good,” he said. “Right now, it’s more strengthening. The problem I had with the knee was a strength issue, so now it’s getting that back so I don’t have that problem again.”
He will stay in Columbus to rehab while the team is in Arizona from Jan. 29 to Feb. 18.