COLUMBUS -- The most important lesson Andy Gruenebaum learned in six years as an understudy to Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer was that game preparation involved more than just field work.
In an interview with MLSSoccer.com last season Gruenebaum said he learned from Hesmer to take video sessions more seriously.
Gruenebaum took the advice to heart in 2012 as he replaced the injured (now retired) Hesmer for the entire season and established himself as one of the top 'keepers with a goals against average of 1.26 that was fifth-best in MLS.
The payoff continued Saturday during the season opener at Chivas USA when Gruenebaum posted a 3-0 victory that included a key play early to keep the match scoreless.
Following a turnover he was forced to decide how to play a one-on-one encounter with Julio Morales in the 26th as he dribbled into the penalty area.
"I was thinking I had to be patient and stay up as long as I could," Gruenebaum said. "There's a couple of times from watching the goals from last year I felt like on those type of breakaway situations I'd go down to early or not play it the way I wanted to."
This time he came out 12 yards, stayed on his feet and made Morales slot the ball with his left foot. Gruenebaum then lunged to his right, got a glove on the shot and sent the ball harmlessly over the end line.
"I tried to get as big as I could," he said. "I was fortunate to get a hand on it."
Crew coach Robert Warzycha saw all facets of Gruenebaum on the play. First, he liked his athleticism.
"The save he made showed he's quick and has good reactions," he said.
Secondly, he noted how Gruenebaum is correcting his mistakes.
"He is studying the video," Warzycha said. " He knows whether players are right-footed or left-footed. Last year, against Chicago I think, he gave up couple of goals leaning in the wrong direction. He didn't cover the near post but he did in this situation."
Just two minutes later Morales tested Gruenebaum again and this time he pushed the ball around him as the goalie went to the ground. Morales then tried to hurdle Gruenebaum but fell in a unsuccessful attempt to draw a penalty.
Gruenebaum said he tucked his arms to show the referee he was not the one initiating contact.
"In a normal situation when they try to tap it by you it's toward an angle and you still try to get to the ball with your hand," he said. " I wanted the referee to not even have to make a decision. I made it clear I had no intention of putting my arms up.
"My instincts told me that he had touched it too far and he wasn't going to get there. I wanted to lay down and play dead essentially. It was in impulsive move."