OBETZ, Ohio – Columbus Crew rookie goalkeeper Matt Lampson will be handed his first MLS start on Wednesday evening, but he's overcome challenges far greater than the one he will face at Philadelphia (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Lampson – who made his MLS debut in this past Saturday's 4-3 win over New England in relief of first-choice goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum – was told Tuesday by coach Robert Warzycha that Gruenebaum would not make the trip so he could rest his bruised back.
That means, Lampson, who turns 23 on Sept. 6, will have a golden opportunity to build on his successful debut, in which he allowed a penalty but made three saves in a 4-3 win over New England.
“I was really hyped up to play,” Lampson said to MLSsoccer.com following the match. “After the game, especially, I was overcome with emotions.”
That’s because there was a point in his young life that he thought less about a pro career than just staying alive.
In 2007 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the most serious stage of the disease that kills more than 1,300 people in the USA annually, according to the American Cancer Society.
After months of chemotherapy he was cleared to resume playing and attended the Crew Soccer Academy tryout that fall.
The resident of the Columbus suburb of Hilliard, Ohio, later spent one redshirt season at Northern Illinois but returned home to play the past three seasons at Ohio State before signing a Homegrown Player contract in December.
Lampson has appeared in seven Reserve League matches, including a 4-0 win over the Union in PPL Park on April 14.
“It’s going to be different than a reserve game,” Warzycha said. “You’re going to have people in the stands and feel some pressure. I’m sure he’s going to be a little bit nervous but that’s good to have some nerves.”
Lampson said Tuesday he is just happy to have some time to get ready for his opponent.
“Honestly, I wanted to know [I was starting] yesterday,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way the cards go. It’s going to be a lot easier to prepare now than getting tossed into the middle of the game like last game.”
His teammates expressed confidence in him, citing his strong showings in training as a basis for their faith in the young 'keeper.
“We have seen him train with us every day,” defender Sebastián Miranda said Tuesday. “He’s been doing a very good job.”
However, Lampson's place between the posts is likely just a temporary one, as Gruenebaum could return for Saturday’s match against Montreal.
“If we wanted to take [Gruenebaum] to Philadelphia probably we can, but the smartest thing to do now is give him one game and have him play the rest of the season,” Warzycha said.
MLS pool goalkeeper Scott Angevine, who trains with Sporting KC, will be the backup with Columbus only carrying two ‘keepers following a season-ending hip injury to William Hesmer in March.
The Crew (10-8-6) will make at least one other change after center back Carlos Mendes suffered a hamstring strain Saturday, leaving him out for at least four weeks. Julius James or Danny O’Rourke could take his spot.
Columbus, playing for the fifth time since Aug. 15, are 2-0-2 during the stretch and are seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season.