Gruenebaum ready for next challenge vs. Rapids

Crew backup now the focal point in conference semifinals

COLUMBUS – Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum should be more comfortable when he takes the field in Crew Stadium for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against Colorado on Saturday (4 pm ET, Telefutura).

After all, he already has one game against one of the league's best offenses under his belt since replacing injured started William Hesmer, and he only needed to make one save in the Crew's 1-0 loss to Colorado in last week's series opener.

“For all the dangerous spots [the defenders] were in, I really didn’t have much to do,” Gruenebaum said.

Colorado this week have made no secret of their plans to pepper Gruenebaum with as many balls into the box as possible, after he admittedly mishandled a couple early.

“Some of those crosses, I was a little hesitant because in warm-ups, the balls were dying, then [the Rapids were] hitting it straight through the air and it’s moving past me,” he said. “I’m like, ‘What do I expect? I can’t expect anything.’ ”

Not only did he have to contend with the mile-high altitude that makes the ball jump, he also used the Jabulani ball that was different than what he was used to for the 10 U.S. Open Cup and Champions League games he played this year.

“The jaba plays mind tricks with you sometimes and you’ve just got to deal with it,” he said.

Goalkeeping coach Vadim Kirillov said taking care of crosses has been a point of emphasis this week in practice.

“He’ll be ready,” Kirillov said. “He should be sharp and help the defensive line coming off the goal line.”

Although he didn’t play a single minute in league play this season, he now has 24 MLS starts since joining the Crew in 2006.

“He’s been solid when he’s been asked to step in,” defender Frankie Hejduk said. “He’s played in some big games so he’s ready for it. We trust him and have all the confidence in the world in him.”

Gruenebaum knows the series could be decided by penalty kicks if the Crew wins in regulation by a goal and the teams are still even in aggregate after overtime.

“If that happens I’m fine,” he said. “I live for those. There’s no pressure on me.”

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