There have been many great goalkeepers in Major League Soccer over the first 18 years. But only two accomplished the feat Colorado Rapids first-year goalkeeper Clint Irwin reached when he posted his fifth shutout in his tenth career start Saturday night in the 2-0 win over Chivas USA.
From American World Cup 'keepers Tony Meola, Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, Juergen Sommer, and Marcus Hahnemann, to international World Cup goalkeepers like Walter Zenga, Jorge Campos, Faryd Mondragon, Thomas Ravelli, and Chris Woods, none reached five clean sheets in MLS faster than Irwin.
According to the Elias Stats Bureau, the only other two goalkeepers that began their MLS careers with shutouts in five of their first 10 MLS starts were Kevin Hartman (1997-1998, LA Galaxy) and Henry Ring (2002-2004, Chicago Fire).
Hartman, in his 17th season, is one of the most decorated players in MLS history. During his time with LA, Kansas City, and Dallas, Hartman won two MLS Cups, two Supporters Shields, two U.S. Open Cups, a Goalkeeper of the Year honor, and was named to five MLS All-Star teams. Now with the NY Red Bulls, he is the League's all-time leader in numerous goalkeeper categories, including games played (416), wins (180), saves (1474), and shutouts (112).
Ring's career was not quite as accomplished. He was drafted by Chicago in 2001 and only made one start in his first three seasons. But in his fourth year, he started 28 matches and was named to the MLS All-Star team. That, however, would be his last season in MLS.
Ten starts is way too early to predict which path Irwin is on: Hartman's, Ring's, or somewhere in between. But here's comparison statistic to chew on: Hartman and Ring each surrendered 12 goals in their first 10 MLS starts. Irwin conceeded only six goals in his first 10 starts (and became the first MLS goalkeeper to face a penalty kick in four straight games).