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

1 Comment

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.”

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The fight for the final four 2018 World Cup spots from UEFA is well and truly on.

On Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland the draw for the two-legged playoffs was made as the eight best runners up from the UEFA qualifying group stages found out their fate.

[ MORE: Latest World Cup rankings released ]

The Republic of Ireland will face Denmark over two games, while Northern Ireland face Switzerland and two monster clashes have been set up as Sweden and Italy will lock horns and Croatia and Greece will do battle.

A spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer is the prize for the four winners of these home and away playoffs.

The Republic of Ireland seem to have got the better draw, especially as they will play at home in the second leg in Dublin. Northern Ireland will also be okay with having Switzerland but are slightly hampered by playing the first leg in Belfast. Italy against Sweden will be a tight game and one neither nation will relish, and the same can be said for Croatia vs. Greece with their intense local rivalry.

First leg matches will take place on November 9-11, while the second leg will take place on November 12-14.

Below is the full schedule for the two playoff games.


UEFA playoff schedule

First leg

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs. Italy

Second leg

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland
Greece vs. Croatia
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark
Italy vs. Sweden

Watch Live: England, Mexico, Spain, France in U-17 World Cup action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It is a busy day at the U-17 World Cup in India as four Round of 16 games take place.

[ LIVE: Stream U-17 World Cup ] 

Red-hot England play Japan, while France and Spain collide and Mexico clash with a very impressive Iran side who won all of their group games. Mali and Iraq complete the Round of 16 games on Tuesday.

The winners of the England v. Japan game will face the U.S. on Saturday after they blew away Paraguay 5-0 on Monday.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s four games, while you can click on the link above to watch all four games live.

Tuesday’s U-17 World Cup Round of 16 games

Iran vs. Mexico – 7:30 a.m. ET
France vs. Spain – 7:30 a.m. ET
England vs. Japan – 10:30 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Iraq – 10:30 a.m. ET

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

Twitter/@jonurbana1
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

Twitter/@ug_football
1 Comment

CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.