After learning from Reis, Shuttleworth aims for starting gig in New England

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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.”

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.