Maybe, just maybe, the Crew someday will actually have their top two goalkeepers healthy enough for the preseason after a third straight year with at least one on the mend.
Incumbent William Hesmer missed most of the training because of a right ankle sprain suffered on the first day of camp Jan. 16 and didn’t participate in full workouts until eight days ago.
“I’m waiting for the healing to take place and you can’t force your body to heal quicker than it will,” Hesmer told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday.
With Andy Gruenebaum seeing most of the preseason minutes, it’s unlikely Hesmer will play Saturday’s regular-season opener at Colorado. He might not even travel.
“It depends on how Will is feeling,” Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha said. “We have to make a decision Friday.”
Homegrown rookie Matt Lampson will be the backup if Hesmer is unavailable.
“I feel pretty good,” Hesmer said. “I’m still a little winded. I’m not there yet. The strength is coming. I just have to make sure I let this thing heal so it’s not lingering all season long.
“Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, if not sooner, Andy and I both will be ready for selection.”
Unfortunately for the Crew, opening the season with questions mark in goal because of health concerns is nothing new. Gruenebaum missed the 2010 and 2011 preseasons because of hip issues and Hesmer spent most of last season’s camp recovering from a right shoulder fracture.
Both netminders were inactive when Columbus lost the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals to Real Salt Lake, including 4-1 in the second leg in Utah after a 0-0 tie at home, with Ray Burse Jr. subbing on an emergency basis.
“[That] was probably the toughest part,” Hesmer said. “Neither one of us was able to help us advance in a tough environment.”
On the mend
Hesmer is not the only one in doubt for the Crew, as mainstay right midfielder Eddie Gaven is nursing a right ankle sprain. He’s participated in some non-contact drills but has sat scrimmages the past two days.
Rookie Ethan Finlay will likely start if Gaven is not ready. He could be joined by defensive midfielder Kirk Urso to give Columbus two first-year players in the lineup.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s nothing new that we didn’t do last year or did the year before,” Warzycha said.
Also, Carlos Mendes (hamstring) is expected to be ruled out for Saturday, leaving a gap at left back if Shaun Francis needs to be replaced for some reason.
Central defender Danny O’Rourke or right back Sebastián Miranda could slide over, Eric Gehrig or Josh Williams might be options and even midfielder Bernardo Anor played there occasionally in preseason.
“I don’t want to be scared to put somebody in that position,” Warzycha said. “It’s temporary. Probably anybody can do that job.”