The Columbus Crew has a history of talented goalkeepers. Whether it was Brad Friedel, Tom Presthus, Jon Busch, or William Hesmer, the Crew has consistently had a solid netminder protecting the pipes.
A goalkeeper's number one job is to keep the ball out of the net and that will be the priority for those vying for the Black and Gold's one spot this season. Whoever is most successful in that aspect will be the starter in 2014.
The goalkeeper also must be an organizer of the back line as he has a unique view of the pitch. He has to instruct the players in front of him and make sure their positioning is correct to prevent shots.
Andy Gruenebaum was the starter for the majority of the 2013 season before a shoulder injury forced him to miss nine consecutive games. Before the injury, Gruenebaum complied a record of 5-10-5, had four shutouts, and a 1.33 goals against average.
Gruenebaum passed Mark Dougherty for third on the Crew's all-time list for career starts, appearances, and minutes played in goal and passed Brad Friedel for fifth in career wins
Second-year player Matt Lampson saw his first substantial time of his career in Gruenebaum's absence. The homegrown product made 13 starts, finishing with a 7-6-0 record. He recorded five shutouts and had a goals against average of 1.38.
What Has Changed
The Crew sent Andy Gruenebaum to Sporting Kansas City this offseason for a second round draft pick. The Black and Gold acquired 27-year old Steve Clark, who played for Honefoss BK in the Norwegian Premier League in 2013.
Clark brings the experience of playing internationally, where he was the starter for Honefoss BK in his final three seasons. Last year he posted a 1.56 goals against average and had four shutouts.
Brad Stuver is the third goalkeeper on the roster. He was drafted in the second round by the Montreal Impact in 2013, but spent the season as an MLS pool goalkeeper, making gameday rosters for four teams including the Crew.
What To Expect This Season
This is one of the most important battles of the preseason for the Crew. It is always tough to know what a new regime will do, but with no obvious incumbent goalkeeper, it is even more difficult.
At this point in time, it appears Steve Clark and Matt Lampson are battling for the starting goalkeeper position with Brad Stuver looking at emergency duty. As to who wins the starting spot for opening day, that is still up in the air.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter was not ready to name a starter after his team's final official preseason game Saturday, but did start Steve Clark with what appeared close to the starting 11. Matt Lampson did start the Crew's scrimmage on Sunday.
It seems that Berhalter will likely go with Clark to start, as he brought him to Columbus and he has done well in preseason. Saturday's final of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic was a good indication of what Berhalter is thinking a week before opening day and Clark was his goalkeeper.
A team always wants one starting goalkeeper, but having a backup that really pushes him is good for several reasons. If Lampson ends up the second-string goalkeeper, he will certainly work hard to earn that starting spot if Clark struggles, which could ultimately be beneficial.