Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum knew something was amiss in his right hip when the persistent pain that gnawed at him toward the end of the 2010 season did not go away with rest.
Just days prior to the opening of preseason camp in late January, Gruenebaum had to back off from training and did not make his practice debut until Feb. 24 at the Obetz facility.
“It felt good to be out there,” said Gruenebaum, who stayed in Columbus to rehab while the team spent three weeks in Arizona. He is with the club in Kennesaw, Ga., but has yet to play a preseason game, including Wednesday’s 3-1 preseason win against New England.
[inline_node:326901]His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him or the Crew. With starter William Hesmer doing his own recovery work from a fractured right shoulder suffered Oct. 24, Gruenebaum was expected to start the two CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal games against Real Salt Lake. Instead, emergency backup Ray Burse was in goal for the scoreless draw at home on Feb. 22 and the 4-1 defeat March 1 at RSL that saw the Crew ousted from the CCL.
Gruenebaum’s problems are related to having surgery in Sept. 2009 to repair a torn hip labrum. The Crew medical and training staff believes the glutei muscles around the surgery area were not sufficiently redeveloped following the procedure and pressure on the joints caused the hip to “catch” under the strain of movement.
“Apparently, weak gluteus muscles did me in,” Gruenebaum said. “They’re strong now. Last year, I thought by lifting three days a week and incorporating a lot of legs in there I was getting stronger. What I failed to do was strengthen the muscles where I had the surgery.
“Toward the end of the year, I noticed the catching, but the pain was so minimal I thought it wasn’t anything serious but it wouldn’t go away,” he added. “When [the pain] happened in the offseason, that’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Gruenebaum did not play in any MLS regular-season games in 2010 but was in goal for both playoff games vs. Colorado after Hesmer got hurt. He also played all six Champions League group stage matches and the four US Open Cup games, including a 2-1 loss in the final to Seattle.
The Crew beat New England 3-1 Wednesday at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium behind goals by Tom Heinemann in the 17th and 53rd minutes and a tally from Bernardo Anor in the 15th.
Defender Chad Marshall played the opening 45 minutes in his first appearance since suffering a head injury on Feb. 21.
The Crew end preseason play Friday vs. Houston at 7:30 pm ET in Kennesaw.