FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The final three games of the 2011 season won’t go down as the most memorable in the history of the New England Revolution. Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Revs suffered a pair of losses to the San Jose Earthquakes and Columbus Crew before closing out the season with a draw against Toronto FC.
But while the trio of matches had no bearing on the Revolution’s postseason fate, they were three of the most important games of the year for backup goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
For the second straight year, Shuttleworth started between the pipes in New England’s final three games as a replacement for injured starter Matt Reis. Although the Revs picked up just one point from a possible nine, it was 270 minutes of game action which proved most beneficial to the third-year goalkeeper.
“We didn’t get the best results during those games, but for myself, it’s three more games of experience,” said Shuttleworth, who made a career-high seven regular-season starts in 2011 after starting five games in 2010. “Obviously that’s something I need being a younger goalkeeper. The more games I can get, the better.
“Every game I play in, I feel more comfortable,” said the 24-year-old netminder. “Even the last run of three games, the first game against San Jose, I’m not as comfortable as the game against Toronto. When I watched the game over again, you can kind of see that in the Toronto game, I look a little bit more comfortable. That just comes with each game, just feeling out what’s going on and playing with the players in front of you.”
Shuttleworth signed with the Revolution midway through the 2009 season and spent the remainder of that year as the club’s third-choice goalkeeper after a standout career at the University of Buffalo. He was promoted to the No. 2 position in May 2010 when Preston Burpo suffered a season-ending injury and has spent the past year-and-a-half serving as Reis’ backup.
Daily training sessions, reserve matches, U.S. Open Cup contests and sporadic appearances with the first team have all aided Shuttleworth’s progression in his first few seasons, but the young goalkeeper claims nothing has been as beneficial as starting a string of league games to close out the past two seasons.
“When my first season comes where I’m a number one, for myself, I’m not used to getting a game week in, week out,” said Shuttleworth. “So to get those three games last year and this year, it kind of sets the tone for me where I know mentally [how to prepare].”
Shuttleworth’s time will eventually come, but in the meantime, he’s soaking up as much experience as he possibly can while simultaneously trying to prove he’s ready to step in when called upon. With 12 regular-season starts, three U.S. Open Cup games and a SuperLiga match under his belt, Shuttleworth has already come a long way from the wide-eyed rookie who first arrived in Foxborough two-and-a-half years ago.
“I can remember when I first came in here, just being so nervous to come to training,” Shuttleworth admitted. “I remember playing my first Open Cup game in New York and being so nervous to play; I hadn’t played in a game yet. Now I feel like when I step in that I’m extremely comfortable and I feel like I’m ready to take the next step.”