The Columbus Crew reached double figures on Saturday – but it wasn’t in points.
That would have required a victory at Portland, but the Crew were still pleased with a 0-0 draw behind the stellar goalkeeping of Andy Gruenebaum despite the absence of captain Chad Marshall.
The MLS Defender of the Year in 2008 and ’09 took a ball to the head in practice Friday and, based on his previous history of concussions, was held out of the match to become the 10th player on the current unable to play list.
He will be reevaluated in Columbus.
“It’s frustrating, the amount of injuries we have,” Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com, “but at the same time it’s out of our hands. We have the guys who can play and we have the depth at that position especially.”
Eric Gehrig, with eight career starts under his belt, stepped in for Marshall to pair with Josh Williams (above), making his third start. Although they have played in the Reserve League together, this was their first pairing in a regular-season match.
“We feel very comfortable with each other,” Williams said. “It’s not only the Reserve League, but every day in practice. We’ve had two years together.”
Williams continues to be the poster child for hard luck as he was denied a goal for the third and fourth times in the past two games.
He was stopped by a goalmouth clearance on Saturday from Portland midfielder Diego Chara in the 28th minute before goalkeeper Troy Perkins, a native of the Columbus suburb of Worthington, made a brilliant stop on his header in the 66th minute.
“I saw the goalie slide near post,” Williams said of the second attempt. “I tried to put it back post, but I got bumped at the last second. I couldn’t really direct it back post. I thought it was going in.”
Williams had a goal disallowed and a bicycle try hit the crossbar against Vancouver the previous match.
“I know Josh,” said Gehrig. “He won’t stop until he gets one.”
While the Crew are now winless in five straight games, Saturday’s match might have been a turning point for Gruenebaum in making his mark as the ‘keeper for the rest of the season for the injured William Hesmer.
After misplaying a free kick into a goal that cost Columbus the match against Vancouver last weekend, he came to the rescue of the ad hoc lineup time after time, including a couple of fingertip saves on Rodney Wallace.
Gruenebaum said the diving effort in the 20th minute was his best of the match.
“I wasn’t thinking about last week too much,” he said. “I don’t really let anything get to me whether it’s good or bad.”