New England Revolution v Houston Dynamo

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.”

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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