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Philadelphia Independence keeper Val Henderson gives a behind-the-scenes take of everyday life with the WPS expansion club. In the latest installment, Val talks about the glory of earning a shutout.

Donut. Zero. Clean sheet. Whatever you want to call it, the shutout is the pride and joy of the defense. But even though they’re sought after every game, sometimes shutouts can be hard to come by.

2010 certainly hasn’t seemed to be the year of the keeper thus far with the best goals against average at .86 and the majority of keepers conceding more than a goal a game. With 15 games under our belts, the Philadelphia Independence went into Wednesday night’s game with just three shutouts to boast. That’s a problem.

Of course goals against can be overlooked when goal production is high. No one complained about conceding a goal when the Independence put up four goals in a night of Independence abuse last Saturday against Sky Blue.

Caroline Seger had three assists and earned WPS player of the week with her breakout performance. In the first minutes of the match she served a beautiful ball to Lohman who wrestled past a defender and buried it with her head. Then twice Seger played perfectly weighted through balls to send A-Rod for a pair of breakaways. With A-Rod confidently burying those and Frida (Magnusdottir) dribbling the midfield and defense and putting another away, the Independence attack had the fans and bench alive with energy.

So yes, it seems to be the goals that keep the fans in the game and get a team excited, but it’s the shutouts- the defensive stinginess- that keep teams in the game. What will protect teams down the stretch as we all battle for playoff spots is the ability to defend and keep the team in the game. And while we were thrilled to put up four on Saturday night, the fact that we surrendered a goal felt unacceptable and put a damper on the win.

There was no such let down last night against Chicago. Once again A-Rod did what she does best, tallying another early goal and then burying another on a counter started from Kirby before fist pumping her way back to the team. Finally, she returned the favor from the previous game, finding Seger open in front of the net and helping her mark her first goal of the year.

Again team and fans were ecstatic (except for Seger who delayed cheering, worrying that her goal was too good to be true and a whistle must be looming). But the job wasn’t finished. We needed the shutout.

We tried not to look at the clock as the minutes slowly ticked away. We needed to put together the full 90, stay sharp, walk away with a shutout. We were battling. With great tracking by our midfield, huge clearances from Kirby and Krzysik, scrappy defending from Johnson and Frida, we saw the clock find 90 minutes and waited for the golden whistle.

But the whistle we heard was not quite so golden. After a tackle on the left flank, the referee blew, and instead of calling the game, reached for his red card. Magnusdottir: straight red.

After some bickering over the unwarranted red, Chicago took an uneventful free kick, and finally the last whistle blew. Five seconds from defensive glory, and it had to be tainted by losing our prized, nut-megging “Icelandic Viking.” Ugh.

We’ll put that shutout in our back pockets and keep stretching for that full 90. We’ve still got a time to get it right.

Next stop: Washington Freedom. Yeah Philly!


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