For Reis, preseason grind feels good

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Preseason might be long and grinding but Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis isn’t complaining. Just one year ago, the 35-year-old veteran was facing the second of three surgeries in the same calendar year that limited him to 14 games.

With the pain of those invasive shoulder, knee and ankle procedures in the past, Reis is hoping to reap the pleasure of a healthy body, and if that means slogging his way through nearly seven weeks of preseason, then so be it.

“It is nice,’’ said Reis, the team’s starter for the past seven seasons. “With everything that went on last year and not being here and not going through it all, even though it’s tough, you do miss it. It’s part of the season and an important part of the season. You lay the groundwork for whatever you’re going to be doing for the year. Even though it’s a grind, you learn to love it.’’

The Revolution endured a difficult season last year. Preston Burpo began as the team’s starting goalkeeper and made 11 appearances until a shattered right leg suffered in a game against the New York Red Bulls ended his season and, perhaps, his career.

That spurred Reis back into action. But with the team already in a tough situation without the offensive firepower it needed because of the absences of forwards Taylor Twellman and Edgaras Jankauskus, and with the defense spotty, the team went through a tough time.

Reis surrendered 25 goals in those 14 games as the defensive players in front of him were in a constant state of flux. His 4-7-3 record in the second half of the season (9-16-5 overall) fell far short of the team’s quest for an eighth straight postseason bid. But to Reis, hope springs eternal. With new player acquisitions, Reis said there’s reason for optimism in 2011.

“There really is,’’ he said. “At the beginning of the year, all the teams are equal and everybody’s got a perfect record right now and we are working to do well and to really get back to where we were. The first thing is just to make the playoffs. You can see that once you get into the playoffs anything can happen. So right now that’s our focus. Get the new guys in and integrate them and make sure we are putting in enough work so when we meet them, we’ll be on a level playing field in terms of the work put in.’’

The 2011 season ushers in two new expansion franchises with the additions of Portland and Vancouver taking the league total to 18 teams. That means more West Coast travel for the Revolution and new teams and players to familiarize themselves with. The team will begin an 11-day training session Monday in Orlando, where they will be able to get outdoors for the first time in 2011 since two weeks of indoor training in Foxborough.

“You see the moves and you see a lot of new faces in the league and a lot of international players,’’ Reis said. “It will be interesting to see how it turns out. Sometimes those are boom or bust. You can find somebody who is going to be pretty good for you like [2010 MVP] Fredy Monteiro or you can find somebody like the Mexican guy in Chicago [Nery Castillo] who was a bust. You never know. What we have always done here is worry about our house and about the Revolution and what’s going on here. We definitely have a lot of new faces and hopefully we’ll bring in some more new faces because we've got to turn our ship around.’’

While only he and Shalrie Joseph remain as holdovers from the team’s golden era, when it reached four MLS Cup finals in the early-and-mid 1990s, Reis said he understands the need to be a solid reference point in the team. With 71 career wins in 188 games played, Reis is the team’s all-time leader in every significant goalkeeper category, including 44 career shutouts.

“Shalrie and I are the two leftovers from the glory days, so to speak, so we can lead by example that way, and if these guys ask just tell them what to do,’’ he said. “But both of us are lead-by-example guys rather than just screaming and yelling.

“It’s really still early right now and still a feeling-out period with the new guys and learning everybody’s names and learning the tendencies of what everybody’s going to do,’’ Reis added. “For me, I try to lead by example more than I lead by voice and talking. For me it’s just getting the work done and being out here every day."