FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Wednesday night was one of mixed emotions for New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.
For 89 minutes, Reis was stellar, stopping seven shots while recreating the form which saw him nominated for Major League Soccer’s Goalkeeper of the Year Award four straight times from 2005-08. But he lost his shutout bid in the 90th minute when Houston Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell buried a rebound from close range to deny the Revolution the full three points in a frustrating 1-1 draw.
To compound Reis’ disappointment, the veteran goalkeeper was issued a straight red card for using “offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” while defending teammate Pat Phelan during a scuffle after the final whistle. It was just the second ejection of Reis’ 14-year career.
With Reis suspended for Saturday night’s meeting with the New York Red Bulls, backup goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth is poised to step into the starting role for the first time since April 30.
“Obviously I’m really excited to play every time I get a chance,” said Shuttleworth, who is 0-2-1 with a 2.00 goals against average in three starts this season. “I train hard and I try to train to be ready to play. I put the work in week in and week out for these kinds of opportunities.
“I thought Matt played awesome last night, kept us in [the game],” he continued. “I want to just keep that going and put us in the right state of mind where we can maybe pull these three points out that we need to get.”
While Shuttleworth hasn’t featured in a first-team game in almost four months, the 24-year-old netminder is no stranger to filling in for Reis on short notice. After serving as the third-string goalkeeper in his rookie year of 2009, Shuttleworth made six appearances last season, compiling a record of 3-3-0 and notching his first career shutout in a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Wizards on Oct. 16, 2010.
Considering the ability Shuttleworth has shown in his limited first-team minutes – not to mention in training and reserve games – the young goalkeeper’s coaches and teammates have full confidence he’ll be prepared to face the Red Bulls.
“Bobby’s not going in blind in our eyes. We know what he’s capable of,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “Obviously the only thing he lacks is a little bit of experience that obviously Matt has, but you only get experience by playing and he’s going to get his chance on Saturday.”
“We’re very comfortable (with Bobby as our goalkeeper). Bobby’s done great every appearance he’s made for us,” said Chris Tierney. “Obviously it hurts that Matty’s out. He’s been playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play, so there’s no doubt that’ll hurt us. But we have full confidence in Bobby and we think we can get a clean sheet with him in there.”
Shuttleworth will enter the fray against the league’s most potent attack, as the Red Bulls have scored a league-high 39 goals behind the strength of Thierry Henry’s league-leading 12-goal haul. While the goals have dried up for New York recently – the club has just five goals in its last six regular-season games – the Red Bulls still pose a significant threat going forward and will undoubtedly test Shuttleworth on Saturday night.
In order to limit the damage, Shuttleworth will have to form an understanding with his backline as he aims to keep them organized and on point for 90 minutes.
“We have to find ourselves in the right spots all the time,” Shuttleworth said. “I think communication between us is going to be the biggest thing to try to prevent whatever we can, and just staying switched on the entire game and finding ourselves in the proper places when we need to be there.”
Regardless of the task, Shuttleworth believes he’s up for the challenge.
“It’s tough to go four months in between games, obviously,” he admitted. “The hardest thing is just trying to get the rhythm right away and stepping in there isn’t the easiest thing, but that’s my role on the team right now and that’s something that I have to just take head on.”