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.”

Wenger slams criticism of Arsenal’s players ahead of fan protests

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Arsene Wenger is not a happy man.

I know, I know, tell us something we don’t know.

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However, the 66-year-old Gunners boss has taken exception to widespread criticism of his players ahead of fan protests against him which are planned for this Saturday’s game against Norwich (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates Stadium.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Wenger stood up for his players who are having their commitment questioned.

“I tell you, this team has character and attitude. Some people who question them, I know them well – they have less character than this team has. I saw them play, and even know them very closely, and they should not question the character of these players,” Wenger said. “There are some groups of people that try to manipulate our fans, but I believe apart from a personal agenda and a big ego there’s not a lot behind [the criticism].”

Okay then…

[ MORE: Wenger has a message for Arsenal’s fans ]

With empty seats galore at the Emirates last Thursday during the 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, Wenger had been dealing with growing fan unrest throughout this season.

Although Wenger urged fans of Arsenal to support the players on Saturday against Norwich he did admit he shares their frustration about limping out of the title race this season, of all seasons.

“I can understand the frustration,” Wenger said. “No one is more frustrated than me, but our disappointment has not to go too far. When a club cannot enjoy anything any more, it is in trouble, and we have to not forget that in football you go down very quickly and you come up very slowly.”

Arsenal looked certain to be making a title charge in February after they beat Leicester City late on but since that huge victory they’ve won just three of their last nine Premier League games, plus lost in the FA Cup to Watford and were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Barcelona at the Round of 16.

After two decades of Wenger in charge and no PL title in 12 years, Arsenal’s fans want more. They want trophies and success.

They also want answers from Wenger and as the protests on Saturday will show, the vast majority also want a new manager.

Goteborg apologizes over crowd trouble at abandoned match

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31:  IFK Goteborg receives the silver medal after the match between IFK Goteborg and Kalmar FF at Gamla Ullevi on October 31, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.  (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images
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GOTEBORG, Sweden (AP) Swedish club IFK Goteborg has apologized for crowd trouble that resulted in a league match against Malmo being abandoned after a firework landed next to a visiting player warming up on the sidelines and he responded angrily.

Wednesday’s game was interrupted in the 77th minute, with the score at 0-0, when a firecracker tossed from the crowd exploded next to midfielder Tobias Sana, a former Goteborg player. Jolted by the loud bang, Sana reacted by throwing a corner flag into the stands.

[ WATCH: Sana throws corner flag into Goteborg fans ]

Match officials decided to abandon the match, saying a linesman who was also near the firework when it exploded was shocked by the incident.

Sana, who said he had a headache and ear pain following the incident, apologized for his actions.

“Now that I’ve gotten over the shock, I feel it was the stupidest decision of my life,” Sana said Thursday in statement. “There are many young people who look up to me so I really want to apologize.”

Malmo said that Sana wouldn’t face any sanctions from the club.

In a move suggesting the firework was thrown by home fans, Goteborg posted an apology on its website directed at Malmo, match officials and the spectators. The club could face sanctions from the Swedish football association’s disciplinary committee.

There was another security incident on a chaotic evening in Goteborg. After the match was suspended, a Norwegian hockey player ran onto the field, reportedly as part of a bet with teammates at recently crowned Swedish champion Frolunda.

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Newspaper Aftonbladet said Mats Rosseli Olsen, who played for Norway at the Sochi Olympics, was charged with a public order offense and could face fines.

Frolunda director Christian Lechtaler told Swedish news agency TT that Olsen’s behavior would have “consequences” but didn’t elaborate.

“Mats is very regretful and doesn’t feel good at all about this,” Lechtaler said.

Swedish football has been marred by crowd problems for years, including fans throwing objects at players and match officials and brawling with each other before or after games. Two years ago, a Djurgarden fan was killed after being attacked by hooligans ahead of an away match against Helsingborg.

Flores on future at Watford: “I need to feel happy”

during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford at the Boleyn Ground, April 20, 2016, London, England
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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On the surface, it sounds crazy: Why trade a manager who led a first-year Premier League club to relatively quick safety in England’s top flight and a FA Cup semifinal?

But Watford is not any club when it comes to their views on managers, having parted ways with Slavisa Jokanovic after the Serbian manager led them to promotion. Oh, and when hired Jokanovic was the Hornets fourth coach in five weeks.

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So current manager Quique Sanchez Flores isn’t safe despite the Hornets’ 12th place status. That probably has a lot to do with Watford’s four points since the start of March, a tough schedule run that included Leicester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham.

So, could he be gone this summer? Flores has a break clause after this season, and Watford may not have a choice even if they want to keep the Spaniard around.

From Sky Sports:

Asked if he wanted to stay, Flores said: “This is not the question for me now.

“I know the kind of people I want to work with. That’s the only thing I can say. In the last four or five years I work from my feelings. I work around people I feel completely protected with.

“These are my feelings. When we finish the season I will check what the conditions are but I need to feel happy.”

Who needs who the most? Flores’ season has been impressive even with the late struggles, but Watford’s managerial merry-go-round happened before the club advanced into the Premier League and they’ve survived despite making a change in the summer. Still, we’d do our best to keep Flores at Vicarage Road.

Ex-soccer star Weah to run again for president of Liberia

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 25: Liberia soccer legend George Weah speaks during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw at the ICC convention centre on November 25, 2007 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Former world footballer of the year George Weah says he will make a second bid to become president of Liberia.

The ex-AC Milan striker announced on Thursday he will stand as a candidate in elections next year, when current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and final term ends.

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Weah, who formed the Congress for Democratic Change party, lost to Sirleaf in the 2005 election.

Declaring his intention to stand again, Weah told supporters he sympathized with the plight of many poor Liberians. He said “there were times I didn’t have school fees. I continued to strive with the hope that one day life will get better.”

Weah was the world footballer of the year in 1995. He is a senator in his West African homeland.