Emotional Reis steps away after legendary career: “It’s been an amazing 16 years”

38-year-old goalkeeper holds hero status in New England

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After an emotional 15-minute speech on Wednesday morning in which he announced his retirement from professional soccer and thanked those who’ve guided him along the way, New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis fielded a variety of questions from the media. Inquiries ranged from his relationship with the fans to the toll his remarkable 16-year career took on his body.

The final question, however, came not from a media member, but from Reis’ concerned four-year-old son Weston, who wanted to know if his daddy was crying.

“Yes, I was crying,” Reis answered with a smile. “It happens to the best of us.”

And Reis truly was the best, retiring as the Revolution’s all-time leader in every career goalkeeping category and establishing himself as one of the top goalkeepers Major League Soccer has ever produced. A four-time MLS All-Star and four-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year finalist, Reis lifted an MLS Cup trophy with the LA Galaxy in 2002 before capturing the 2007 U.S. Open Cup and 2008 SuperLiga crowns with the Revolution.

Reis, who began his career with the Galaxy back in 1998, has played a substantial role in the growth of MLS, which rose from a fledgling startup to one of the fastest-growing leagues in the world during Reis’ tenure. As he reflected on his career, Reis jokingly alluded to the early days of MLS and marveled at the strides the league has made in the past 16 years.

“As an MLS lifer, I’m very proud of where the league has gone and where it is today. I like to think I had a small hand in that,” Reis said. “I like to say that back in the day we were in covered wagons going across the country, setting up soccer in the United States. It’s amazing now, flying in jet planes. It’s come a long way, the league has, and I’m very happy to be a part of that.”

And the league was happy to have Reis, who forged a deserved reputation as one of the good guys. For all his accomplishments on the field – and they were many – Reis devoted just as much attention to his contributions in the community. A frequent visitor to Boston Children’s Hospital, he began the Matt Reis Charity Golf Challenge in 2011 to further his fundraising efforts and inspire others to give back.

“I took a lot of pride in getting into the community and trying to make a difference,” said Reis, who was honored as the 2013 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year. “I disagree a little bit with Charles Barkley (who famously stated, ‘I am not a role model.’) I think we are role models. I think we do have something to do out there and try to make this a better place.”

For Revolution fans, Reis made New England a better place, backstopping the club’s defense for the better part of a decade and guiding the club to three straight MLS Cup appearances from 2005-07. While pondering what he’d miss the most about his playing days, Reis noted the locker room camaraderie, but also the special bond forged between himself and the Revolution supporters.

Those relationships are why Reis pushed himself to the limit every weekend, giving everything he had to his teammates and the fans who supported him. Although his battered body eventually succumbed to the forces of time and required him to call an end to his marvelous career, Reis knows he’ll never lose that passion and that desire to compete.

“There is absolutely a price to pay,” Reis said when asked how he dragged his body through 16 seasons. “Using our bodies does take a toll and take a beating. No one’s forcing me to [play]; I could stop at any point. But I don’t want to. Unfortunately, I have to now.

“But seeing the (tribute) video and seeing all the highlights, it gets the blood going again and you want to get out there and play. I don’t think that’ll ever leave me. It’s in my DNA.”

Much like Matt Reis will never leave the fabric of the Revolution. He’s in the DNA.