FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Moments before Matt Reis stepped to the podium to announce his retirement, two large TV screens inside the working press room at Gillette Stadium flashed many of his finest moments during his 16-year career.
A dive to his left to deny a sure-fire goal. An acrobatic leap to tip a hurtling shot above the bar. A bold move off his line to snuff out a dangerous chance. And after the reel reached its conclusion, the longtime Revolution keeper couldn’t help but offer a dose of his trademark wit.
“When they started playing all those highlights, I wanted to get back out there and play again,” Reis quipped. “It’s been an amazing 16 years. We’ve had some highs and lows and just some great times.”
It’s not a stretch to say that many of the heights the Revolution reached over the 11 years Reis spent in Foxborough would not have occurred without the work of their veteran goalkeeper.
Reis originally arrived via trade in 2003 from the Los Angeles Galaxy as a backup to postseason hero Adin Brown, who was fresh off one of the finest performances ever seen in MLS history during the 2002 playoffs. If Reis was looking for playing time, it appeared that New England wasn’t going to be the place he’d find it.
But Brown suffered through injuries during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, opening the door for Reis to make his case for minutes. He did that -- and so much more.
From 2005 through 2008, he was named to the MLS All-Star squad four times, and was a Goalkeeper of the Year finalist in each of those seasons. His reputation as a smart and fearless keeper was only further cemented when he helped the Revolution reach the MLS Cup final three times during that same span.
Although he never got the same chance to lift the MLS Cup trophy with his Revolution as he did with the Galaxy in 2002 -- coincidentally, at the expense of the local XI at Gillette Stadium -- Reis didn’t reflect on the failures.
He recalled the support Revolution fans showed him prior to the club’s Aug. 17 clash against Chicago -- his first league start since saving the life of his father-in-law, John Odom, who was injured during the Boston Marathon bombings.
“The one thing I’ll never forget is (the game) against Chicago (on Aug. 17),” Reis said. “When they read my name, it was fantastic. The ovation and the love that I felt from all of our fans -- it was a special time.”
Indeed, the affable Reis was more than just an athlete, he was a beloved member of the New England soccer community -- one that he often spent time giving back to through his annual charity golf tournaments.
In the 2013 tournament, Reis raised funds for Odom, who incurred substantial medical expenses related to his recovery. Not surprisingly, Reis was named 2013 MLS Humanitarian of the Year -- an award that gained special meaning this year given in light of the bombings, when Reis used his jacket as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding from Odom’s injured leg.
“I disagree a little bit with Charles Barkley,” Reis said. “I think we are role models and I think that we do have something to do out there and we have to try to make this a better place.”
Surrounded by family, friends, coaches and teammates, Reis thanked many of them by name. He thanked his wife, Nicole, for her love and support throughout his career, and spoke lovingly of his three children, Jacob, Christian, and Weston. He also took the time to acknowledge the recent death of gameday staff member Ernie Branco, who was killed in a car accident on Sunday.
It was a lasting display of Reis’ unselfish character. After all, it was never about him -- it was about those around him. And when he spoke about his parents, Reis fought tears to get through the words.
“To my parents, I can’t say thank you enough for all that you’ve done for me,” Reis said. “(For) the sacrifices, the support, the love and teaching me to be humble and letting me dream big and giving me the confidence to achieve those dreams. For teaching me the right way to go about things and to think about others before myself.”