Crew's Hesmer in pain ahead of return to KC

Returning to his first club, goalkeeper's back is flaring up

COLUMBUS – William Hesmer said the discomfort from chronic disc problems in his back is manageable.

The Crew goalkeeper was fit enough Thursday at Red Bull Arena to come within nine minutes of a club record 26th career shutout but had to settle for a 3-1 win over New York that moved the undefeated team atop the Eastern Conference.

“My body feels good,” he said afterward.

He will get a chance for his fourth clean sheet of the season Sunday at his former team the Kansas City Wizards and could break the deadlock with Jon Busch on the all-time list—if he is healthy.

The pain in Hesmer’s back flared before last week’s match against Chivas USA yet he made three saves in a 1-0 win.

“Saturday was the most pain I’ve ever played in,” he said. “I was really, really struggling. We put heat on it enough to get through it. Sunday I couldn’t even get out of bed, gave it rest. Monday, I did the same thing. Tuesday, I still struggled but I had great treatment from our trainers and doctors and they had me good to go (Thursday).”

Back pain has been a constant companion. He missed more than a month of the 2009 season with a strained lumbar.

He has been reliable except for a misplayed ball off the foot of New England’s Zac Boggs on May 8.

“He’s one of the top keepers in the league,” defender Eric Brunner said. “He’s making saves and making our job easier.”

Hesmer’s pro career began inauspiciously in 2004 after joining Kansas City out of Wake Forest. He played exclusively on the reserve team the first two years before compiling a 1-2 MLS record with one shutout for the Wizards in 2006.

Toronto FC claimed him in the expansion after the season, but he never played a game with the club because the Crew acquired him and defender Danny O’Rourke for a partial allocation in one the great deals in team history.

Hesmer’s debut for then-coach Sigi Schmid’s team was delayed until the 11th game in 2007 because of a hamstring strain suffered in the preseason.

“I had been in Kansas City for three years and I was just finally getting a chance at the end of my third year,” Hesmer said. “When Sigi traded for me all I wanted to do was prove myself and prove Sigi right. He stuck his neck out for me.”

Hesmer played the final 20 games and was 8-7-5 with 1.45 goals against average and five shutouts.

“When I started playing we finally turned it around,” Hesmer said. “I don’t take all the credit. The team was starting to turn it around, but to be a part of that movement in the right direction that led us into 2008 was obviously very good for me.”

He helped the Crew win the MLS Cup in 2008 and was a finalist for goalkeeper of the year after compiling 10 shutouts to go along with a 17-6-6 mark and 1.14 GAA. Hesmer was 9-4-6 with seven shutouts last season when his goals against dropped to 0.95.

“I want to continue to be consistent, continue to win games,” Hesmer said. “I’ve been very proud of my win-loss record. Ultimately that’s what a goalkeeper’s judged on.”

He’s off to another stellar start by allowing six goals in seven games (0.86, third-best in MLS).

The Crew will need Hesmer to be on the top of his game Sunday. They are coming off an emotional win at New York and will be tired although leading scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto will be fresh after serving a suspension against the Red Bulls.

“I’m happy with his (Hesmer’s) performance,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “What is happening in the game is you have to make one stop and he’s doing that right now.”