When William Hesmer underwent season-ending hip surgery, Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum knew he would be counted on to fill a void left by Hesmer as one of the Black & Gold's vocal leaders.
As the Crew's second-longest tenured player, Gruenebaum has always been a popular guy in the Black & Gold locker room. However, it was difficult to be a leader for the team while backing up Hesmer.
"(Gruenebaum) has been here just as long as anyone on the team, so he's always been a leader, but it was kind of hard to be a leader when he was a backup," teammate Danny O'Rourke said of Gruenebaum. "When you keep in consideration that he was always ready anytime Will (Hesmer) has been hurt in the past Andy has come in and we really haven't skipped a beat because like I've said all along, 'We're the team who has two starting goalies on our roster, if something happens to Will, Andy steps right in there.' He kind of rights the ship for us."
Despite being thrust into a new leadership role with the Crew, the 29-year-old 'keeper hasn't changed his personality or style of play between the posts.
"Truthfully, I am just myself. I haven't really changed," Gruenebaum said. "The only thing that has changed is that I'm getting games now. It doesn't change who I am as a goalkeeper or anything like that. I'm not going to change my personality. I'm just going to continue to work as hard as I can and do the things I need to do to get better."
His teammates are surely thankful Gruenebaum didn't change his personality. His playful demeanor has kept the atmosphere positive during the Crew's current rough patch.
"Life is too short. It's just one of those things where if you're not enjoying things, then what's the point? You've got to enjoy life, so I'm a little bit goofy and a weird dude," Gruenebaum said with a smile. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Though he is known as the team goofball in the locker room, Gruenebaum knows there is a time and a place to make his teammates laugh. The field is not one of them.
"There's a time and place for jokes, but at the same time, you've got to takeover and own your area and sort of be a field general," Gruenebaum explained. "I try to find that balance. I feel like I've always been able to do that and hopefully I can continue that.
"Everyone needs to know when to take it seriously when we're on the field, but there's a time when things aren't going the right way that if we're too serious, then we're not having any fun and it can spiral even farther downward. It's important for all of us to kind of take that attitude (that Andy has)," O'Rourke said.
In addition to being a leader on the field and in the locker room, Gruenebaum has taken rookie Homegrown 'keeper Matt Lampson under his wing.
"I love Andy. I've learned a great amount from him. I don't tell him that, because I don't want it to get to his head," Lampson said of his mentor. "He sees little facets of the game that really make me a better goalkeeper and I learn a lot from him."
"He's a leader in my eyes and he helps me to be what I want to be some day. That speaks for the type of character he is."