- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

If soccer games were interrupted to honor superlative individual achievements, Sunday’s Founders Cup III would be halted a bit before halftime to hail the WUSA’s iron woman.

Washington Freedom captain Jen Grubb is 45 minutes shy of becoming the first player in league history to play 6,000 minutes. For three seasons, Grubb has played every minute of every Freedom game.

Grubb never has departed because of injury or been sent off with a red card. When Sunday’s championship game against the Atlanta Beat ends at San Diego’s Torero Stadium, Grubb’s career playing minutes will surpass 100 hours.

“It’s actually kind of a funny topic because it’s not something I really think about until it’s brought up to me,” Grubb said. “I try not to focus on it. The part that is good for me is that obviously the coaches respect me and have enough faith in me to not take me off. That’s really the best part about it.”

What makes Grubb’s streak particularly remarkable is that she plays central defender — a physically demanding position where hard tackles in the box are normal.

“She’ll make a hard tackle but nothing dirty,” said defender Carrie Moore, who plays alongside Grubb in the Freedom’s 4-4-2 alignment. “She’s smart, so she doesn’t put herself in a position where she needs to risk getting a card.”

Positioning is the key to Grubb’s defending. The four-time All-American from Notre Dame sees the field and anticipates balls coming into the box. Because of her technical awareness, Grubb is seldom whistled for fouls and collected 15 this season.

“A lot of it is, she doesn’t put herself in a situation where she has to take someone down from behind, because she’s disciplined,” said defensive midfielder Lindsay Stoecker. “She reads the game well enough where she doesn’t have to make the dumb or bad tackle and where she can step in and get the ball before she has to go to the last resort.”

At 25, Grubb has the better part of her professional career ahead. On Wednesday, she was named to the All-WUSA first team along with Freedom forwards Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.

Grubb played in her second consecutive WUSA All-Star Game in June, starting for the American All-Stars against the WUSA World All-Stars.

Grubb’s conditioning regimen is one reason why she has stayed injury-free. The 5-foot-7 Grubb is dedicated to the weight room and watches what she eats. She is sturdily built and lettered twice at Conant (Ill.) High School as the football team’s kicker. She was the first girl to score a point in Illinois high school football history.

“She works extremely hard in the offseason and during the season,” Hamm said. “Obviously, a lot is genetic, but she works hard. She didn’t wake up one day and was [built] like that. She prides herself on being fit, healthy and taking care of herself, and all those things make a difference. She’s really an amazing professional.”

“I really have been lucky without any major injuries,” Grubb said. “I think if you do all the things that you can do [to stay healthy], you put yourself in a better position.”

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