The Keeper is a Lonely Position

The Great Defenders copy

The goalkeeper has a thankless position. Sure, occasionally, spectacularly they are the hero, stopping unlikely shots. Zac Macmath has stopped 3 PKs in the last two weeks. But then….

Wolvey saves

A save by Wolvey.

A forward can miss dozens of time, but “at least he is putting it on goal.” In their game this week, Arsenal had 7 shots, 4 on goal, 15 crosses and 9 corners. That is a lot of opportunities missed, 3 shots blocked by the keeper. But when Giroud gets a head on a close cross, one shot in and he is a hero! The game is won 1-0! And the game is lost 0-1.

The keeper, he may have stopped a dozen shots. But let that one ball past…and he is the goat, the reason they lost.

A year or so ago I remember Coach Bob Warming (or maybe it was Bo Oshoniyi) saying that a keeper’s best game is almost always in a loss.

Think about it, stats are kept for keepers, but what goes up on the sites? Top Scorers and Top Assists. When you do look at the stats, almost always a keeper with a lot of saves is doing so because he has to block a lot of shots! (Makes sense, doesn’t it.) That usually means that his team is lacking in defense and they are likely not to have a lot of offense either.

I was brought back to this line of thought because Daniel Sheerin posted this Radiolab podcast on Facebook: The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper. I had heard this three years ago or so and had even mentioned it to Elizabeth two days ago, saying it was driving me nuts that I couldn’t remember where I had heard it or track it down. And then Daniel posted it on Facebook. Providential.

It is a wonderful piece that talks about the loneliness and philosophical nature a keeper has to have to be succesful. They are alone, the last line of defense. When they do their job well, there is no jubilation, no lifting up of the jersey and pounding on the chest, they just get on with it. And yet you cannot win games without a good keeper.

I played goalie in water polo in college and grad school. I can’t say that I was very good, I only picked it up when I got to college. But I did understand the mental aspect of the position and I shared this with Mack:

There is only one ball to worry about, the one in front of you. Those that get behind you are to be forgotten, let them go, face forward, and get ready for the next.

I think there is a lesson in there somewhere.

 

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