The retirement of Matt Reis means there’s a question as to who’ll be between the sticks for the New England Revolution for the first season in a long, long time. The Revs have taken steps to firm up their defense, but the battle for the starting goalkeeper job will be among the most-monitored in New England.
Bobby Shuttleworth, Luis Soffner and newly-reacquired Brad Knighton will compete for the gig in camp. Whoever wins the job will be undertaking a huge task, as Reis’ leadership loomed large.
“Matt was probably the biggest part of our locker room,” Shuttleworth said. “He’s such a charismatic guy and he’s such a good person that you can’t help but listen to what he has to say and want to follow him. He definitely gives out an aura where he’s completely in control all the time and that kinda puts everyone else at ease.”
Shuttleworth signed for the Revs after his junior year at the University at Buffalo. The Tonawanda, N.Y., native said Reis was instrumental in his acclimation to a professional career.
“It wasn’t just the type of thing where I could watch him and soak it in,” Shuttleworth said. “He would go out of his way to help me and see things that maybe I wasn’t seeing. There’s not enough things in the world that I could say about the guy as a player, as a person and as an leader. He filled every single role that you could want.”
Now Shuttleworth has the chance to take the mantle from Reis. While the club traded a 2015 conditional draft pick for Knighton on Dec. 11 ahead of the Re-Entry draft, Shuttleworth has more immediate familiarity with the system and made his strongest case during a four-game shutout streak last summer.
“At the time, it was just trying to take it game for game and not trying to look at that kinda stuff,” Shuttleworth said. “I was trying to keep my form in each individual games. Unfortunately we went on a little bit of a bad run there and I was one of the guys who got placed out of the lineup.”
In mid-June, Shuttleworth was leading MLS in goals against average and save percentage after leading clean sheet efforts against Houston, Toronto, Los Angeles and DC United. Those numbers rose and Reis returned. The veteran’s retirement sets up an interesting training camp battle with Knighton and Soffner.
Shuttleworth posted a 1.31 goals against average and stopped 67 percent of shots while posting nine clean sheets and a 7-11-5 record in 22 starts, while Knighton posted a slightly higher GAA (1.36) and save percentage (70) in posting two clean sheets and a 6-3-2 record for Vancouver, where he spent 2012-13 after playing 2010 for Philadelphia and 2007-09 with New England.
“Obviously they went and traded for Brad and I have a previous relationship with Brad and we work really well together,” Shuttleworth said. “There’s no expectations at this point for myself. Obviously I want to be playing so that’s one thing in my mind is I need to come into preseason and establish myself right away and hope that all those games I played in last year translate into this season.”
“The talks I’ve had with (the coaching staff) are that I need to come into preseason and work hard. I’m not expecting anything to be given to me. Last year, was probably my best year. I played in 20-something games and had a good run of form. I just want that to translate into next season. ”
And if all goes well, he’ll move past an odd preseason to play against his former teammate, now the goalkeeper coach in Los Angeles.
“The first thing that’s going to be weird is he’s not going to be in the locker room or at training,” Shuttleworth said. “Matt and I have a great relationship so it’s going to be weird to see him with another crest on his shirt, for sure.”
Regardless of how it turns out, Shuttleworth has come a long way from his offseason signing in 2009. He credits Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps and Reis for helping him transition from college star into the role of a professional.
“It wasn’t easy at first. I got here in the summer of 2009 so I came in midseason so I didn’t really know anyone. I didn’t get that rookie time during preseason to get to know everyone and know each other. That first half year was definitely a big struggle for me. I didn’t really know anyone on the team. I was kinda just coming to training and going home. I was away from my family and it was definitely hard to go from one of the biggest leaders on a team to being someone who doesn’t really have a voice at all. I kinda bided my time and tried to learn as much as I could from the coaching staff and Matt and other players on the team. Just kinda put in my work, put my head time and hope for the best. You try to do all the right things to try to move up.”