FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sunday night’s 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls was about more than just three points for New England Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Like many of his Revolution teammates, Shuttleworth had a frustrating 2011 campaign. The 25-year-old keeper made seven regular-season appearances as the backup to longtime starter Matt Reis but failed to register a win, going 0-4-3 while allowing more than two goals per game.
So when Shuttleworth got the nod for his first league appearance of 2012 against the Red Bulls, it represented his first opportunity to erase the disappointing memories of last year. Shuttleworth seized the chance in style, making three saves to notch his second career shutout.
“Last season was pretty tough for me personally,” Shuttleworth admitted. “I didn’t get a win all year, so first game of the season to get a shutout and a win, it feels good and I’m sure it feels great for the guys.”
Reis started the first 16 games of the season – amassing a record of 5-7-4 with three clean sheets – but on Friday head coach Jay Heaps informed Shuttleworth that he would be getting the start between the sticks against New York. Heaps noted the opportunity to give Reis a rest, Shuttleworth’s fine performances in the Reserve League and the young goalkeeper’s ability dealing with crosses as primary factors in the decision.
“Quite frankly, Bobby’s been playing really well in training and in the reserve games,” said Heaps. “I take a hard focus on reserve games and Bobby’s had a really good run in those.
“It was a combination of things with Matt,” added Heaps. “First of all, we wanted to get him a rest. This is the longest he’s gone without a break. But also Bobby’s been playing well enough to get out there and we also wanted to shore up some air balls. We all know the past few games we’ve given up some poor goals … Bobby has a commanding presence in the air and that’s what he showed.”
Shuttleworth also lauded the importance of the Reserve League, which returned in 2011 after a two-year hiatus. While daily training sessions help maintain day-to-day sharpness, live game situations are critical for gaining both experience and confidence.
“I think the Reserve League is very important for a guy like me, especially with me not getting a game for the first half of the year,” Shuttleworth said. “I’ve probably played four or five reserve games, an Open Cup game, and it’s been the thing where I’m not playing in first-team games but I’m able to stay sharp in the Reserve League games so that when I’m called upon I can contribute and be ready to play.”
Shuttleworth was clearly ready to play on Sunday and he’ll be similarly prepared whenever his next chance arrives.
“I’m working every week to try and play, so any opportunity I can get I’m going to try and take it,” he said.