New England Revolution: Matt Reis
New England Revolution goalie Matt Reis is retiring after a 16-year MLS career. Reis played five seasons for the Los Angeles Galaxy (1998-2002) and 11 for the Revolution (2003-13).
Reiss was undefeated (7-0-4) during the regular season in 2013, and led the Revs back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Revs lost to Sporting Kansas City, with Reis leaving the final game with a quadriceps tendon tear that would require surgery.
Reis, who took over as the Revs full-time starter in 2004, finishes his career as the team’s all-time leader in goalie appearances (254), starts (253), minutes played (22,697), goals against average (1.31), wins (93), saves (989), shutouts (66) and saves percentage (72.3).
“Trading for Matt Reis was one of the best acquisitions the Revolution has ever made,” said Revolution Investor/Operator Robert Kraft. “On the field, he was an elite MLS goalkeeper who set every career goalkeeping record in club history. He was a respected leader, both on the field and in the locker room, for more than a decade. He quickly became a fan-favorite and, for much of his career, was one of the faces of our franchise.
“Off the field, he was a tremendous ambassador for the Revolution, participating in countless community events throughout New England and earning MLS Humanitarian of the Year honors this past season. We will miss his steadying presence on the field, his constant presence in the community and his quick wit in the locker room. We thank Matt and his family for their many contributions and wish them the very best in the future,” Kraft said.
In November Reis was voted the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his actions at the Boston Marathon bombings, and his fundraising efforts on behalf of his father-in-law, John Odom, who was seriously injured in the bombings. Reis was only yards away from the first blast. While he was unharmed, Odom was seriously injured. Reis immediately raced over to him and used his jacket as a tourniquet -- a decision that probably helped save Odom’s life.
“Matt has been one of the most outstanding and inspirational members of our club for a decade, and we want to thank him for all of his remarkable efforts, both on and off the field,” Revolution president Brian Bilello said. “He’s been a model representative of the Revolution and has helped us reach great highs during his time in New England. It’s tough to see him end his playing career and know he won’t be back out on the field next year, but we want to wish him and his family nothing but the best in the next stage of their life.”
Reis has a press conference Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. ET and we'll have more after that. The press conference will be streamed on the Revs website, revolutionsoccer.net.
A press release from the Revs details Reis’ actions that day:
Reis has been a mainstay in goal for the Revs for almost a decade, but on April 15, 2013, he made the save of his life when he saved his father-in-law’s life at the site of the first Boston Marathon bombing. Reis, who had been standing in the same place as Odom just minutes before, rushed back in to the blast site to tend to Odom, who lay critically injured feet from the initial blast site.
Using his belt and jacket as make-shift tourniquets to stem more significant blood loss, Reis curtailed Odom’s blood loss enough for first responders to be found and brought to Odom. Odom remained at Boston Medical Center for more than two-and-a-half months before being released to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where he worked as an outpatient for two-and-a-half more months before finally returning home to Southern California in September.
In August, as Odom recovered from his life-threatening injuries and re-learned to walk, Reis raised more than $125,000 for the John Odom Recovery Fund at his annual golf tournament, where Odom opened the tournament with the ceremonial tee shot.
“Matt has always been a tremendous ambassador for our club, but his actions and response on April 15 really showed how amazing of a person he is,” New England Revolution president Brian Bilello said. “Matt has been our team’s humanitarian of the year the last three years for his fundraising efforts for various charities, but this year he absolutely deserves league-wide recognition from his peers, clubs around the league and media.
“Throughout his family’s ordeal with John, Matt balanced everything and continued to be an advocate for the bombing victims while being a leader for our team,” Bilello continued. “His stellar performance at the end of the season just reiterated what a tremendous impact Matt has for our club on and off the field.”
Reis was injured in the Revs' playoff loss to Sporting Kansas City and underwent surgery on his left quadriceps. He will need five to seven months to recover.
Revs captain Jose Goncalves is up for two awards: Defender of the Year as well as Newcomer of the Year.
Goalie Matt Reis is a contender for the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year.
Defender Kevin Alston is in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. Alston was sidelined for four-plus months after being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) before returning to action on July 27.
Here is the schedule of when the MLS awards are expected to be revealed:
November 25: AT&T Rookie of the Year, Xbox Fair Play Individual & Team of the Year
November 26: MLS Defender of the Year, MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year, and Referee/Assistant Referee of the Year
December 2: MLS Coach of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year
December 3: 2013 MLS Best XI
December 4: Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year
December 5: AT&T Goal of the Year, MLS Save of the Year and Volkswagen MLS MVP
By most measures, the 2013 season was a certifiable success for the New England Revolution.
Whether you look at the unexpected run to the postseason (first since 2009), the third-place finish (highest since 2009), the 14 wins (most since 2007) or the +10 goal differential (best since 2005), few will argue that the Revolution didn’t take a significant step forward from their ninth-place finish in 2012.
Yet, for all the positive developments, the fact is that there’s still room for considerable improvement. Improvement that will be necessary to turn the Revolution from a postseason contender to a championship-caliber club. After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?
The Revolution front office and coaching staff will take a hard look at its personnel at every position, and analyze what they need to do to strengthen their squad for 2014. We’ll follow suit, as well, and examine the roster in order to get a better understanding of what the Revolution need to find even more success next season.
In the first of a four-part series, we’ll take a look at the team’s goalkeepers: Matt Reis, Bobby Shuttleworth and Luis Soffner.
Overview: The 2013 season should’ve belonged to Shuttleworth. At least that’s what many felt as the Revolution entered preseason camp back in January.
The fifth-year veteran re-signed with the club during the offseason, and after a strong finish to the 2012 season, the starting keeper’s job was essentially Shuttleworth’s to lose. Unfortunately for Shuttleworth, that’s exactly what happened during the winter months.
After getting beat out by veteran Matt Reis during the preseason, Shuttleworth found himself on the bench for First Kick -- a sure sign that doubts remained about the understudy’s ability to take the reins between the sticks.
But it wasn’t long before he got another shot. Reis picked up a left knee injury soon after First Kick, opening the door for Shuttleworth to slide back into the starting role. From there, it looked like Shuttleworth would finally prove himself once and for all as the club’s best option between the sticks.
During a 16-game span that ran from late-April through early-August, Shuttleworth posted a sparkling 0.86 goals against average, and collected eight clean sheets within that span. At one juncture during July, he was ranked 12th on the Castrol Player Index, and was named as one of the club’s six candidates for the All-Star game.
Just when it seemed he was ready to guide the Revolution to the postseason, Shuttleworth’s began to struggle. He struggled to stop long-distance shots, and opponents quickly took notice. From Jun. 15 through Jul. 27, no fewer than seven shots from outside the area found their way past Shuttleworth. Back-to-back wins at Columbus and D.C. United allowed him to keep his job for the time being.
But after a humbling 3-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 10, the writing was on the wall: Shuttleworth was no longer assured of his starting spot.
Outlook: Reis’ injury presents a slew of question marks at the keeper’s spot. First and foremost: will the injury force the 38-year-old to hang up his boots? Is Shuttleworth capable of taking over Reis’ spot once and for all? Or will the Revolution look for a veteran keeper during the offseason? And can Luis Soffner step into the backup spot?
Despite an inconsistent campaign, Shuttleworth currently has the inside track for the starting keeper’s spot. He’s proven himself in the past, but needs to show he can play at a high level for an entire season. Over the last three years, Shuttleworth has looked strong at times, only for his form to eventually slide.
Soffner has the size to impose his presence inside the 18, but the second-round pick didn’t see a minute of action with the first team in his rookie season. He’ll attempt to elevate himself to second-string keeper after spending most of the 2013 season as the third-choice.
Bottom line: Whether Reis retires, or has his option declined, 2014 could be a sink-or-swim season for Shuttleworth in New England. After five seasons and at least three different chances to claim the starting spot, the job still isn’t his and his alone. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Revolution pick up a veteran to serve as both a mentor and competitor to push the streaky keeper during the preseason. Soffner’s spot on the roster isn’t assured, but if he remains on the roster next season, he’ll need to elevate his game in order to put himself in a position for his first MLS minutes.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Matt Reis approaches every season knowing he’ll face a new challenge, even after playing in MLS for 16 years. But there’s no doubt that the past season was the most challenging of them all.
On the field, Reis had to win back his starting job after losing it to his understudy, Bobby Shuttleworth. But off the field, Reis faced a challenge that overshadowed anything the sport could ever throw at him.
Although Reis, who was only yards away from the first blast, escaped unharmed, his world was forever changed: His father-in-law, John Odom, was seriously injured after a piece of shrapnel tore into his legs. Reis immediately raced over to him and used his jacket as a tourniquet -- a decision that probably saved Odom’s life.
Despite the heavy emotional toll, Reis came back to help guide the Revolution to its first postseason berth in four years -- and with a new outlook on life.
“It was very nice for me knowing that I could have been dead and knowing that I wouldn't have been here,” Reis said. “To be able to work and get through the ups and downs of everything and to be able to help get this team back into the playoffs was something that [I've] been missing for a long time.”
In a sense, Gillette Stadium became a safe harbor for the veteran keeper. It was a place where he could shift his thoughts away from the horrific memories of the attacks.
Even after Shuttleworth claimed the starting job in late April, Reis’ focus never waned. He didn’t allow himself to become bitter about the situation, and that perseverance served him well when he reclaimed his spot in the lineup in August.
“To be able to play the game is something that I didn't take lightly,” Reis said. “I really truly enjoyed [it] and I thought that my performance has showed how much it meant to me.”
But even though Reis went 7-0-4 and collected five clean sheets in 2013, his playing days may be drawing to a close. During Wednesday’s conference semifinals at Sporting Park, the veteran keeper suffered a left leg injury that he said will require “a long recovery.”
Reis advised reporters on Saturday that he hasn’t yet reached a decision on his future. He will have a discussion with his family, as well as the coaching staff and front office, to find out what the best course of action is.
“We'll have to see what happens moving forward, but if I did play my last game, then I'm happy with my performance,” Reis said. “I'm happy with the fact that I did leave it all on the field and I was able to walk off the field with my head held high.”
GONCALVES’ FUTURE REMAINS UNCERTAIN
While Reis’ status for 2014 remains unclear, another valuable member of the defense could very well have played his last game in a Revolution uniform as well.
Club captain Jose Goncalves, who was acquired via loan last winter from Swiss side FC Sion, realizes that with his season-long deal about to expire, he could have very well played his final game for the Revolution.
But if 2013 proves to be the only season Goncalves, who was voted the team’s defender of the year, plays in Foxborough, he has no regrets about his time with the team.
“I enjoyed it, definitely,” Goncalves said. “It has been a pleasure to be here, and to be the club captain. It's something very important to me and everything went well.”
The front office had remained mum on its negotiations with Goncalves, who stands to be in line for a significant pay raise from the $104,000 he earned this season. While the Revs would like to bring him back, they won’t do it at any cost, despite his impressive campaign.
When asked whether he expects Goncalves to return, coach Jay Heaps kept his answer short and advised that his center back’s future is among the decisions “we'll make over the next few days."
Meanwhile, the Portuguese international is holding out hope that he can return for a second season.
“If there is a good option for me to be back here next year, I will be here, no doubt,” Goncalves said. “I enjoyed my first year here very well, and my family did too.”
REST IS THE RX FOR ROWE, TEAMMATES
With the curtains drawn on the 2013 campaign, Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe is looking forward to something he hasn’t gotten enough of since the preseason kicked off in January.
“Rest,” Rowe said. “It's been a long season I think for a lot of us. It's going to be a couple of weeks of resting and kind of getting our bodies away from soccer.”
Claudio Bieler's overtime goal ended the New England Revolution's postseason dreams as Sporting Kansas City claimed a 3-1 win (4-3 on aggregate) in a wild second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals at Sporting Park on Wednesday.
Bieler scored in the 113th minute after ex-Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber pounced on an errant Matt Reis throw, then sent a pass inside the area, where the Kansas City striker one-touched it into the back of the net.
Aurelien Collin opened the scoring in the 41st minute to level the series on aggregate going into the half, but Dimitry Imbongo reclaimed the advantage in the 70th minute. Ex-Revolution defender Seth Sinovic put the series at 3-3 on aggregate in the 79th minute to send the match to overtime.
Reis collected a game-high seven saves -- many of which were of the spectacular variety -- before a late-game leg injury forced him off the field. As a result, Andrew Farrell, the starting right back, was called upon to put on the goalkeeper gloves for the waning moments of overtime. According to a Revs statement, Reis suffered "a left quadriceps injury that occurred in a non-contact situation."
What it means: Although they may have come up short on Wednesday, kudos are in order to the Revolution on a season that took many by surprise. Few picked them to make it to the postseason, and yet they managed to finish third in the conference -- not bad for a team that started 2-4-3 out of the gate. The fact that they pushed Kansas City -- a team widely regarded as one of the best in MLS -- to the brink at its home park exhibited the will and determination that carried them all season. While the score at Sporting Park left many Revolution fans bitterly disappointed, there's plenty to be optimistic about for 2014.
Stat of the game: Kansas City outshot the Revolution by a whopping 32-5 margin -- a margin that surely speaks to the hosts' inability to convert on an array of chances, not to mention Reis' heroics.
Ex-Revs haunt former team: Two former Revolution players played major roles in Kansas City's comeback series win. Sinovic, who was waived by the Revolution in 2011, scored the goal that sent the game to overtime. Meanwhile, Feilhaber, who was traded to Kansas City last winter, helped plant the dagger in the back of his former teammates when he assisted on Bieler's game-winner. Both players went the full 120 minutes.
Vermes makes three changes: Sporting K.C. coach Peter Vermes made a trio of changes to his lineup after Saturday's 2-1 loss. Jacob Peterson, Teal Bunbury and Lawrence Olum were replaced by Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer and Paulo Nagamura, respectively.
No lineup changes for Revs: Jay Heaps went with the same lineup he used to grab a 2-1 win in Saturday's first leg. The only minor change made was the inclusion of Clyde Simms over Charlie Davies on the bench.
Rare slice of success at Sporting Park: Imbongo's 70th-minute strike was the first Revolution goal scored at Sporting Park since Rajko Lekic's 38th-minute goal in a 1-1 draw on July 30, 2011.
Dom Dwyer came so close ...
In the 93rd minute of Saturday's Major League Soccer Eastern Conference semifinal game between Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution, it looked as though the rookie SKC forward was going to score a game-tying goal. He drove his foot through the ball with exquisite technique and his shot looked destined to splash the back of the Revolution net. But Matt Reis, New England's goalkeeper, had other ideas.
Reis palmed the shot over the net, somehow, sealing the Revolution's 2-1 defeat of Kansas City in the first leg of their playoff matchup.
"It's a huge save," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said after Saturday's game. "It's a long ball, bounces around and we have enough guys around it, but it seems to bounce to their guy, who makes a great move -- Dwyer does -- great hit and Reis, his reflexes are pretty amazing. I don’t think there's been a better goalie in the league that has reflexes like that."
The save on the potential game-drawing shot was the kind Reis has made throughout his career since becoming the Revolution's starting goalkeeper in 2004. But this season, there seems to be something following Reis, some sort of aura on the field. He's unbeatable. Literally. Reis has not lost a single game this season -- including the Revolution's win over Kansas City on Saturday, he's 8-0-4 in MLS play -- despite the struggles he's had to endure off the field.
Click HERE to read the rest of the story on ESPN FC.
Referee Sorin Stoica awarded his first penalty inside of five minutes after Matt Reis fouled Marco Di Vaio inside the box. Reis was red-carded before Patrice Bernier beat Bobby Shuttleworth in the eighth minute to open the scoring. A second penalty was awarded in the 32nd minute after Jose Goncalves fouled Felipe Martins in the area, and Bernier bagged his second goal from the spot in the 33rd minute.
Despite playing shorthanded, the Revolution managed to get goals from Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe in the 26th and 76th minutes, respectively. But two tallies from Di Vaio in the 45+2 and 55th minutes allowed the Impact to walk away with a rare road win.
With the loss, the Revolution’s three-game unbeaten run came to an end. For Montreal, Sunday’s win not only extended its current unbeaten streak to four (3-0-1), but it also marked its first road victory since June 1 at Sporting Kansas City.
What it means: It was a game that, for all intents and purposes, was ripped out of the Revolution’s hands right from the start. But to their credit, they never quit, even if they were doomed to 10 men for 85 minutes after Reis’ red card. Fagundez’s 26th-minute goal briefly put the Revolution on level terms before Stoica pointed to the spot minutes later. But there was no stopping Di Vaio, whose first goal undoubtedly damaged the Revolution’s psyches going into halftime, while his second strike -- carbon copy of his first one -- put it out of reach. Rowe’s late goal took away some of the sting, but the Revolution can’t help but feel like they couldn’t catch a break after Reis’ ejection and not one, but two penalties, were called against them in the first half.
Stat of the game: Sunday’s game was the first time the Revolution conceded four goals at home since a 4-0 loss to Chivas USA on May 5, 2010.
Agudelo out: The Revolution were without the services of starting striker Juan Agudelo, who suffered a hamstring strain in last week’s game at Toronto. Dimitry Imbongo, who hadn’t started since Aug. 10 at Sporting Kanas City, was inserted in Agudelo’s place.
Turf out, grass in: With Tuesday’s high-profile international friendly between Brazil and Portugal on tap, a new temporary grass surface was installed over the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium in time for Sunday’s clash.
Next up: The Revolution will look to put Sunday’s loss behind them when they hit the road for a conference clash against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.
"His latest [condition] is that he's been taken off critical and he's moved down to serious condition," Reis said. "He's doing well. He doesn't have a breathing tube in so he's starting to talk and communicate, but we have a long, long road to recovery."
John Odom was injured in the first of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. Reis was originally with Odom but estimated that about two minutes before the first bomb went off, he and his son moved closer to the finish line to watch his wife, Nicole, complete the race.
Nicole Reis was running the Boston Marathon for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
Odom's wound went from the outside of his left leg through his left leg and into his right leg, according to Reis. Odom has had some infections in his body but they have been treated with antibiotics.
The upgrade in condition is especially welcome, as Odom could have just as easily gone the other way, according to Reis.
Odom has had "eight or nine" surgeries, including one on Saturday, Reis said.
"The last surgery, just today, the doctor went in there and saw that were wasn't any more tissue problems so they're very happy about that moving forward," Reis said.
After seeing where the explosion was, Reis knew it was around the area his wife's parents were standing. He secured his son with his brother-in-law before heading toward his relatives. He found his mother-in-law, Karen, crouched over her husband, with a pair of pants -- originally meant for Nicole when she finished -- wrapped around his leg. Matt used his belt and wrapped it around Odom's leg like a tourniquet and took off his jacket to apply pressure to the wound.
Reis estimated that it took about 20 minutes from when the blast happened to the time Odom arrived at the hospital.
The goalkeeper said that soccer has been on the backburner since the Marathon and said that his family hasn't considered the suspects' motives.
"Any reason is not a good enough reason for us," Reis said. "We were there in support of my wife and in support of an event that's amazing here in this city."
Matt Reis is 1-0-1 this season for the Revolution and has yet to allow a goal in two shutout performances entering Saturday night's game against the Union.
As the Revolution's longest-tenured player, the veteran goalkeeper often takes a light-hearted approach when talking to fans and media alike, infusing his witty sense of humor whenever possible.
But on Wednesday, it was an entirely different story.
Less than 48 hours after his father-in-law, John Odom, was critically injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, a somber and serious Reis spoke candidly about the situation with the local media.
"He's still in critical condition," Reis said of his father-in-law. "He was alert this morning, but he's been through three surgeries now in the last 40 hours or so. He hasn't really stabilized yet, and we're still hoping, but he is progressing a little bit. We're still not sure if he's out of the woods yet. We still don't know if he's going to make it so that's definitely the hardest (part)."
Marathon Monday was supposed to be a joyous event for Reis and his wife, Nicole, who was running it for the first time. She was part of a team of runners that was participating in the historic race on behalf of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
It was a seasonably cool day in Boston -- a picture-perfect spring day by most standards. At around 2:45 p.m., Reis and five other family members were getting ready to take pictures of Nicole, who was about to complete her first Boston Marathon. They were stationed about 50 yards in front of the finish line.
But at the last moment, most of the group decided to move closer to the finish line, to get a better vantage point. Reis, with his 6-year-old son Jacob sitting on his shoulders, joined them. John Odom stayed behind.
A minute later, an explosion rocked the crowd of onlookers. And Reis' father-in-law was right near it.
"It was like a cannon going off," Reis said. "At first, I thought that it was part of the race, but it wasn't. Looking back to where it'd gone off, you could tell that's right where we were."
But instead of running away, Reis sprinted toward the danger.
"It was all a complete reaction," Reis said. "I handed (Jacob) off to my brother- in-law. I knew that (the blast) was right back where we (just) were, so I wanted to try and get back in there and help."
A rush of first responders converged upon the scene as well, and helped the wounded to safety. One of them was Odom, who was brought to a nearby hospital.
Since news spread that Reis' father-in-law was among the injured, the Revolution goalkeeper has received thousands of well-wishes and words of comfort from teammates, fans and the national soccer community.
He's thankful for all the support, and he acknowledged that his teammates have helped him begin the healing process. Although he didn't participate in Wednesday's training session, just being able to watch his teammates practice must have felt like a welcome distraction.
"You miss them and you miss being around the guys," Reis said as his teammates scrimmaged out on the practice field. "I just wanted to let them know that all the love and the prayers and the special thoughts that they've been sending to me haven't gone unnoticed."
The coming days and weeks will be a struggle for Reis and the rest of his family. There will be more hospital visits, more time to reflect on what happened, why it happened, and how it could've happened to someone so close to him.
"We're trying to do the best we can," Reis said. "We've just been through a roller coaster of emotions. We've been happy and sad and angry and pretty much everything (else). We're trying to be strong for each other, strong for John and (we're) trying to give him as much as he needs help to fight this."
The words aren't easy for Reis right now. They may not be for a while.
"It's amazing how things change just in an instant," Reis said. "It has been chaotic."
But the 2012 season wasn’t a complete bust. Not only did the Revolution improve in the goals scored (39), goals allowed (44) and home record (7-4-6), but they nearly doubled their win total (9) from 2011.
Yes, the Revolution regained a considerable measure of respectability as a result. But, there’s still
plenty more to accomplish before the club becomes a contender again.
With that idea in mind, we’ll be looking at each position and examining which areas need to be addressed during the winter.
In the first of a four-part series, we’ll take a look at the team’s goalkeepers: Tim Murray, Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth.
Overview: For the first time in nearly a decade, the Revolution found themselves with a bona fide goalkeeper controversy on their hands in 2012.
The season started with Reis as the firm starter, and he certainly played like one in the first half of the season. Through 16 games, the veteran keeper posted three shutouts and stopped 50 shots, bringing the club within two games of.500. But after a pair of shaky performances at Toronto (June 23) and vs. Seattle (June 30), Heaps decided to make a change.
Enter Shuttleworth. Even though the fourth-year keeper only saw action when injuries forced Reis to the sidelines, Heaps believed that it was time to give Shuttleworth a shot, regardless of Reis’ health. On July 8, the 25-year-old keeper stepped in and made three saves en route to a 2-0 win, while Reis watched from the bench. However, Reis was handed back the starting job two games later, and news only got worse for Shuttleworth, who suffered a sprained left knee in late July.
Then, for the final five games, Heaps went back to Shuttleworth, who closed out the season with back-to-back shutouts and finished 2012 with a 0.71 GAA -- more than half of Reis’ 1.44 GAA.
Meanwhile, third-string keeper Tim Murray was once again limited to reserve league action. He went 0-2-1 with a 2.33 GAA in three appearances. Even though he was elevated to second-string keeper in the wake of Shuttleworth’s mid-season injury, he has yet to make his first-team debut.
Outlook: After serving as the backup for three years, Shuttleworth asserted himself in 2012 and showed why he’s capable of taking over between the sticks.
Prior to the season, Shuttleworth seemed especially hesitant inside his box, and failed to provide much of a vocal presence. But in 2012, he made a considerable leap forward -- one large enough to give his head coach the confidence to hand him the reins, even with a healthy Reis at his disposal.
While that’s good for Shuttleworth, it may also spell the end of the road for Reis as a member of the Revolution. In an ideal world, Heaps would retain both keepers and allow Shuttleworth more seasoning with Reis serving as a safety net. But with the club unlikely to offer Reis an extension, it doesn’t look promising that both will be back in 2013. Meanwhile, Murray may be back given his price tag, and could compete for the second-string spot next season. Then again, it’s entirely possible that the front office may search for a veteran keeper to help Shuttleworth along in his development.
Bottom line: It may be too early to say who’ll start between the sticks in 2013, but all signs point to Shuttleworth. Granted, Reis remains one of the league’s best keepers. However, the mid-summer trade of Shalrie Joseph has shown that Heaps isn’t afraid to part ways with a proven veteran. That said, chances are that Reis walks during the offseason, while Murray stays to compete for the second-string spot should the team bring in another candidate during the offseason.
The nationally-televised tilt will be the first of the season between the long-time I-95 rivals. Last season, the teams split their two-game series, with each club securing a home win in the process. On May 29, 2010, the Revs captured a 3-2 win at Gillette Stadium, while New York avenged the loss months later when they claimed a 2-0 win on October 21, 2010 at Red Bull Arena.
Coming into Red Bull Arena, the Revs will attempt to bounce back from their 1-0 loss to FC Dallas last weekend in Frisco, Texas. In a game that saw the Revs midfield melt in the oppressive 97 degree Texas heat, Dallas dictated the game from start to finish and peppered the New England net with seven shots on frame. Matt Reis made a pair of spectacular saves to keep it close, but with few offensive threats on the other end of the field, the Revs walked off the Pizza Hut Pitch without points for the third consecutive game.
Meanwhile, the talent-rich Red Bulls, a preseason favorite to win the MLS Cup, have stumbled badly in recent weeks after starting the season with a 4-1-2 record, thanks in large part to injuries, national team call-ups, and an anemic attack. In last week’s matchup against Columbus, it appeared that New York’s first victory in over a month had arrived as final minutes fell off the clock. But, rookie Crew defender Rich Balchan netted the equalizer in stoppage time to steal a road point for the Crew in the 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena.
Although the second-place Red Bulls are four spots and six points clear of the Revs in the Eastern Conference standings, the MLS originals are very much alike at the moment. Both teams are win-starved and struggling and both will be eyeing tomorrow’s match as a chance to turn around their respective seasons.
In order for the Revs steal points from their vulnerable foe and stake their first road victory of the season on Friday night, they’ll have to do the following:
Forget the 4-5-1 formation. It’s proven to be a failure, through and through. Rajko Lekic has been lacking service since he signed with the Revs, and it’s clear that he needs a strike partner to find more opportunities in the box, especially with midfielder Benny Feilhaber nursing a sprained ankle. Whether it’s Zack Schilawski, Kheli Dube, or Alan Koger, the Danish striker needs another teammate up top to threaten opposing defenses, as evidenced by the club’s last six lethargic performances.
Keep an eye on Thierry Henry. With Dane Richards, Dwayne DeRosario, and Juan Agudelo out of action due to CONCACAF Gold Cup commitments, it’s obvious that the Revs will have to pay particular attention to Henry, one of the league’s best playmakers. In recent weeks, the former Arsenal and Barcelona star has started to gel with striker Luke Rodgers up top. Rest assured that if the Revs defense snoozes for a second, Henry will seize the opportunity and make them pay dearly.
Test Greg Sutton. On paper, the Revs win the goalkeeper battle so long as Reis remains between the sticks. The Revs are capable of pitching a shutout against the erratic Red Bulls, but one point does them little good going forward. Without having to deal with defenders Tim Ream and Rafa Marquez, both of whom were called up for Gold Cup duty, New England must find ways to pierce the Red Bulls backline and test the veteran keeper, who’s been liable to let through his fair share of garbage goals this season.
On paper, it appears the Revs have the Red Bulls right where they want them: depleted and reeling in the wake of a hard-luck home draw. But, the Revs have obvious woes of their own as they’ve struggled to score all season. If New England has any hopes of taking three points on national television, they’ll have to dust the cobwebs off the attack and score some goals.
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.
Reis, 35, had cartilage smoothed and one bone spur removed during the procedure. Reis’ expected rehabilitation time is approximately three months.
Reis appeared in 14 games this season after missing the first 12 matches of the year following offseason shoulder and knee surgeries. He made his first MLS appearance of the year on June 27 against the Chicago Fire and started all but two MLS matches since that time. On the season, Reis compiled a 4-7-3 record with a 1.79 goals against average and three shutouts.
The 13-year MLS veteran is the keeper of almost every Revolution goaltending record, including games played in goal (188), games started in goal (187), minutes played in goal (16,842), goals against average (1.29), wins (75), saves (757), shutouts (50) and save percentage (.729).
The Revs close their 2010 home schedule Saturday at 8 p.m. against the Kansas City Wizards.
So the struggling team (3-8-2, 11 points), which has been held scoreless in seven league matches, should be able to summon ample motivation when they travel to Real Salt Lake Friday night. They’ll need it. RSL is currently riding a 6-0-2 unbeaten streak en route to amassing 24 points on the season.
Goalkeeper Matt Reis, who last week played his first league game of the season, making three saves in a 1-0 loss to Chicago, said he hopes his team will play with a bit of vengeance in mind.
“I hope so,’’ he said. “I hope it’s still fresh in people’s minds. You only get to go to these places once [yearly] now and we should have it in the back of our minds that let’s not go there and get embarrassed again and show them it’s not going to be that easy.
“They are a great team and they are a team that really likes to keep the ball and possess the ball, and if we give it away it’s going to be a very long night for us,’’ he said. “They are just going to pass it around us. At that altitude, too, it’s always difficult to play if you are not used to it. I think we are going to try and build off the little bit that we got off Chicago and go from there.’’
Reis, who was not in goal last year when the team dropped that infamous contest, said he felt fine after playing his first game last week following a seven-month layoff due to rotator cuff and knee surgeries.
“Just a little tired,’’ he said. “I think the heat had something to do with it. It was my first 90 minutes in seven months, but here I am. I thought it was alright. I would have at least liked to have gotten some points out of it, but letting the goal in was obviously the turning point in the game. I saw it clear but with these new balls they just dance so much so it is hard just going with one hand because they are dancing all around.”
Coach Steve Nicol, who acknowledged the Revs have several players coming in next week on tryouts, said the team is facing an all-too-familiar dilemma: an inability to score goals.
“Obviously they are the home team and they are going to be coming at us, but we have to start strong and then try and get ourselves forward,’’ he said. “We need to try and make some chances and hopefully try and take them. We haven’t been taking chances. I don’t think it’s a great secret. The chances we make we are not taking them. So we need to start taking them.’’
Last week’s game-winner for Chicago, the contest’s only goal, came as the Revolution seemed to fall asleep momentarily on the field allowing Marco Pappa’s 30-yard bomb.
“When you have a problem converting chances you can’t afford to give up a goal,’’ said Nicol. “It was a great strike. The pace on the ball was fantastic. Pappa shouldn’t have been out of position so easily to have the time to do that. That’s more annoying than anything else. Had we been torn apart by silky soccer playing through us and all that kind of stuff, sometimes you just give the opposition a clap. But when you give up a goal that is totally avoidable, then when you struggle to score on the other side, it makes it difficult.’’
Nicol said that RSL has some qualities that the Revs have to be aware of. “They got some pace and they try to get their fullbacks forward and obviously they’ve got an advantage on where they play. You just have to combat it and try and come out and do your own thing.’’
Reis said he would be happy if the Revolution again find space to play, as in last week’s game. He said he just hopes the team can do more with what they get.
“Chicago really let us play so that was something new for us,’’ he said. “We did create chances but we are having our struggles in front of the goal. When you are not scoring goals it makes things more difficult and when you think about it a lot it makes things even more difficult. The big key for everything is just keeping the ball, possessing the ball and making good decisions when we have it, and if we can do that we definitely have good enough players to win games.’’
The returning goalkeeper, the Revolution’s full-time starter since the 2004 season, mentioned that he and the team are going to have to make a quick readjustment to his return in goal.
“Yeah, there is always going to be [a readjustment period] but at this time we can’t really give ourselves five games to get it right,’’ he said. “But, it was like Stevie said, it was something that could have been and should have been avoided. A guy cutting into the middle to get that open and get his head up to take a look at goal. Those are the mistakes we are doing right now and those are the ones that are shooting ourselves in the foot. But, for the most part, it has been ourselves that are hurting our chances of winning rather than being the other team.’’
But the veteran goalkeeper was hardly to blame. The Revolution were held scoreless for the seventh time this season and the goals drought appears to be taking a heavy toll on the team, leaving exasperated coach Steve Nicol to admit the team will work diligently during the month-long transfer window beginning July 15 to search for a goal scorer that could soothe their woes.
“It’s kind of the old story,’’ said Nicol. “The effort, the endeavor and the spirit, you can’t fault that. But in the final third, we just don’t have the quality. Tonight it just stared you in the face, whether it’s the final ball or the final finish.
"We had some chances. Zak [Schilawski’s] header, he probably should have finished. Sainey [Nyassi] scuffed the ball wide from the middle of the goal. Kheli [Dube] had a chance as well with the ball in the box. Taking chances like that changes the game. Again, you can’t fault the effort. It’s just the quality at the end of it is not there.’’
Bad news rained down on the Revolution last week when the team revealed that striker Taylor Twellman’s comeback from concussion and spinal injuries once again was aborted. Twellman has scored 101 MLS goals but played in only two games last season and has not played at all in 2010.
Edgaras Jankauskas (adductor strain), who could provide some of that missing ingredient at forward, has only played 147 minutes spread out over four games and did not feature in last night’s game. The team then is relying on rookies and complementary players to fill the void of frontline strikers, and they're are not capable of delivering what the team needs.
“Our problems are pretty obvious,’’ Nicol said. “We are not as good as we should be in the final third. That’s the bottom line. We have a transfer window coming and we’re doing all that we can to try and change that.’’
So shorthanded was the team that Nicol placed midfielder Shalrie Joseph at forward for the final 10 minutes hoping the 6-foot-3-inch player could get onto a cross or loose ball in the penalty area.
“Obviously we wanted to try and play football and play through them and around them and all that,’’ said Nicol. “But when you are getting into the last 10 minutes of the game and we’re desperate, we are hoping that Shalrie can get on the end of something. I’m sure if you ask their back four, they are not going to want to see Shalrie going up against them. But again, whether it’s Shalrie or anybody else, we need to get them better service into the box to allow them to get on the end of it.’’
The loss dropped the hosts to 3-8-2 (11 points) on the season while the Fire improved to 4-3-5 (17 points).
Reis’ return was marred by a 30th-minute bomb off the left foot of Marco Pappa from about 30 yards out dead center of the park that accounted for the game’s only goal. The goal was aided by bad marking and miscommunication among the field players that allowed Pappa the time and space to take his shot.
“Absolutely, he had no chance at the goal,’’ Nicol said of Reis. “The goal was a classic case of what some of our problems are at the moment. It’s so avoidable. All it takes is a bit of communication to pass a man on and the guy doesn’t get three days to line it up and bury it. It’s a great finish. Matt has no chance. But it’s so avoidable.’’
Joseph said there were at least three mistakes borne of a lack of communication on the goal.
“Pat [Phelan] should have passed him on to Chris [Tierney],’’ Joseph said. “I should have stayed on my feet and don’t dive in and [Emmanuel] Osei should have stepped up. These are mental mistakes that all three of us made, but overall I should have just stayed on my feet instead of diving in. So it’s my fault that we didn’t get the three points. We should have at least gotten a point tonight.’’
Injuries and bad luck continue to hound the Revolution. Veteran playmaker Steve Ralston, who returned to the team several weeks ago, dislocated his elbow in his return match in a friendly against Brazilian team Cruzeiro and is out indefinitely. With Reis back in the lineup, the Revolution should be able to begin stabilizing the defensive end of their game. Without a goal scorer, however, the road is going to continue to be a bumpy one.