As Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum jogged toward the locker room for halftime of Sunday’s loss in Vancouver, he told his backup, 21-year-old Jon Kempin, to be ready to play the second half.
Gruenebaum felt a twinge in his shoulder during the 15th minute of the 2-0 defeat — an injury he feared would sideline him not only for the remainder of the match but potentially the foreseeable future.
In that case, it came as good news Wednesday when tests revealed that Gruenebaum only strained a muscle in his rotator cuff. The injury will likely keep him out of Saturday’s game with Toronto FC, coach Peter Vermes said, but it won’t require an extended absence.
“It’s what I was hoping for — nothing is torn,” Gruenebaum said. “I don’t know if it’s best-case scenario, but it’s definitely a good one, and I’ll take it. I’ll try to get back as soon as possible.”
Gruenebaum was diagnosed with a strained supraspinatus muscle, which runs along the upper back and right shoulder area. The injury occurred when he met Vancouver forward Erik Hurtado for a challenge in the 15th minute. Gruenebaum said adrenaline carried him through the rest of the first half before he gave way to Kempin, who made his MLS debut.
Kempin, a graduate of Blue Valley North, saved a penalty kick in the second half. He’s in line to make his first career MLS start on Saturday.
“Making my debut Sunday, that was a moment you dream about,” Kempin said. “To be honest, I felt comfortable. I wasn’t nervous at all. You know what really helped me is the rest of the team, especially the center backs. I know they have confidence in me. I know they’ll have my back.”
MLS pool goalkeeper Tim Melia has been allocated to the club ahead of Saturday’s home match against Toronto FC. Melia will serve as a backup to Kempin on Saturday if Gruenebaum is unable to play.
Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, who opened the season as the top keeper, remains out with a broken bone in his left hand. Vermes said Wednesday that Kronberg is still likely at least a month away from returning to game action.