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Different paths could determine who starts in goal for Columbus Crew SC

Logan Ketterer and Jon Kempin each have good reasons to replace Zack Steffen on Saturday.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Goalkeepers Logan Ketterer and Jon Kempin took different routes to end up on the 2018 Columbus Crew SC roster.

Ketterer spent five seasons at Bradley University, redshirting his first year on campus and not getting an opportunity to start until his third season with the Braves. After winning the job in the net, Ketterer was an honorable mention All-Missouri Valley Conference selection each of his last two years.

The goalkeeper was drafted by Crew SC in the fourth round (71st overall) of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and made the Black & Gold’s roster. He did not play a second as a rookie, but was re-signed in the offseason.

Kempin had a different option. Growing up just outside of Kansas City, Missouri, he decided to go the Homegrown route in 2010 instead of college, beginning his professional career with Sporting Kansas City at the age of 17.

“It’s funny. This is what his ninth year or something I think and we’re the same age,” Ketterer said of Kempin.

These two goalkeepers have come to the forefront this week with Columbus starter Zack Steffen set to miss Saturday’s game against D.C. United after being called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team.

It’s an uncommon problem for Crew SC, who have only started a backup goalkeeper twice in head coach Gregg Berhalter’s five-year tenure. But now he will have to choose between these two as a replacement for Steffen.

And their different paths to Columbus could play a factor in who gets the nod come Saturday.

“I think it’s been good,” Berhalter said of the battle for the backup job. “I think what we saw early on was Logan was more comfortable with our playing system and he had a good preseason. Jon got a little sick and he was working his way into it. But they both showed a good level and they’ve been pushing each other and it’s been good to see.”

The argument for Ketterer to start on Saturday is his experience with Crew SC and its system.

As a rookie, the Racine, Wisconsin native wasn’t concerned with winning the starting spot necessarily, but rather adjusting to the professional game, specially the Black & Gold’s game.

“My goal was purely just to get up to the level and speed of professional soccer as fast as I can coming from a small college,” he said of 2017. “So my entire goal throughout the year was developing. I went from a college team where we kick it long every time we get it to playing how we play. That was a huge adjustment for me.

“It was just getting comfortable playing out of the back. That was a big one for me. I think I’ve made a lot of big strides in terms of that.”

Ketterer understands Columbus’ possession style having trained in it for over a year now. Because of that, he was Steffen’s backup in the first two games of 2018.

Crew SC could also benefit from Kempin’s experience, but instead of with the Black & Gold, it’s in MLS. The nine-year veteran may have only played in 14 games as a professional, starting 13, but that’s 14 more than Kempin.

One game in particular that could help him out was last season when he started for the LA Galaxy against Columbus at MAPFRE Stadium, a match in which he saved two penalty kicks but lost 2-0.

“He had a good game. He saved two penalty kicks,” Berhalter remembered the contest. “The first goal, I think was a good goal. The second goal was a great goal, very difficult to defend and I think he played well.”

“Super weird game,” Kempin chimed in. “Two PKs, I’ve never seen that. Red card early in the game, which was tough. We scored actually first and they reviewed it, called it back. I think there was another review or two. Yeah, super weird game. At the time we lost, so not something I like to think about. The PK saves were kind of cool.”

What could help Kempin win the job on Saturday is his MLS experience, which, despite being limited, is more than Ketterer’s.

“The experience does play a factor,” Berhalter admitted. “Logan’s going to keep developing, he’s done a great job so far, but Jon has more experience and that’s something to think about.”

But Ketterer does know how to play with his feet and is familiar with the backline, something that clearly made an impact in the preseason and the first two games.

Despite such different paths to be a part of Crew SC’s roster in 2018, Ketterer and Kempin have bonded quickly and there will be no animosity to the loser this week.

“It’s going to be a good week of training and, at the end of the day, whoever the coaches pick, we’ll both be supportive of each other like we have been throughout preseason and the beginning of the year,” Kempin said. “I’m looking forward to a good week of training and then the game on the weekend.”