32 players to watch, December 2009, World Cup 2010

Player To Watch #32: Mark Schwarzer


Number 32: Mark Schwarzer

Country: Australia

Position: Goalkeeper

Club Team: Fulham FC, English Premier League

American-Based Professional Sport “Soulmate”: Ryan Miller, GK, Buffalo Sabres

Mark Schwarzer is one of the finest goalkeepers in the world. He’s a well-known but well-kept secret, in every sense of that paradox. Having appeared in over 400 Premier League games, it is impossible to not know who he is. What is possible is to overlook how outstanding he is. He was netminder for Middlesbrough for eleven years before joining his current club, and was part of a fabled Middlebrough side that won the 2004 Carling Cup. In addition, he stopped a stoppage-time penalty against Blankcheckster City in 2005 that sent Middlesbrough into Europe at the expense of the powder blue Manchester side. That save was easily his most famous stop—as the European run for Middlesbrough didn’t end until a defeat to Sevilla in the UEFA Cup final.

Schwarzer left Middlesbrough for Fulham before the beginning of the 2008 campaign, and earned a share of the club’s prestigious “Man of the Year” honor last season, guiding a Fulham side that had barely escaped relegation the season before into Europe, where they currently sit third in their group with one game to play, but are not at all eliminated from the competition, just two points to the south of group leader AS Roma.


Like his American soulmate, Ryan Miller, who is, over the past few years the NHL’s finest penalty shootout goalkeeper (an NHL record 10-4 in 2006-07), Schwarzer is particularly notorious for his tremendous athleticism and ability to stop penalties. In addition, as the save against Blankcheckster in 2005 indicated, his performances when the stakes are highest are second-to-none. More evidence of this is found in his time at Fulham, where Schwarzer has collected clean sheets against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Miller, the 2001 Hobey Baker Memorial Award Winner (college hockey’s Heisman Trophy), is also admired for his durability, which saw him start an incredible 73 games in 2007-08—a trait Schwarzer knows well, as evidenced not simply by his 400 plus EPL starts but also due to the fact that he’s only had one significant stint on the trainer’s table in his lengthy career.

Seventy-three times Schwarzer has appeared for his native Socceroos—but none more important than the three times he’ll tend the net for the ‘Roos, Yanks are Coming sleepers in South Africa this summer. With a  group that features three tremendous challenges in Germany, Serbia and Ghana, Schwarzer and a tough Australian backline will be tested immensely this summer. But if his career is any indication, Schwarzer will be ready for that task as well, which includes an opening tilt against the top-seeded Germans. You can already sense the ice-water in his veins in his recent media quotes, as he recently told Australian television how much he relishes the challenge:

“Obviously, it’s a massive game first up and the great thing for us is that Germany will be under all the pressure. Everyone will expect Germany to win, they will be under enormous pressure back home to win the game and the footballing world will be thinking the same thing. So from our point of view we will go into the game and hopefully we’ll perform at our best and if we do I think there is every possibility that something might happen.”

Neil W. Blackmon