FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bobby Shuttleworth need only look across the locker room for reassurance that the path to being a starting goalkeeper in MLS often begins with a stint as a backup.
Before becoming a four-time MLS All-Star and four-time finalist for MLS goalkeeper of the year, Matt Reis spent the better part of five seasons backing up Kevin Hartman with the LA Galaxy. Even in his first season in New England, Reis was the number two behind Adin Brown, making a total of just 40 starts in his first six years in the league.
But Reis bided his time and waited for his opportunity, ultimately earning the starting job in 2004 and never looking back en route to a stellar career. It’s the same route Shuttleworth hopes to take as the fourth-year goalkeeper currently bides his time behind Reis.
“Most of the goalies that are pretty successful in the league for a long time are goalies that maybe started out being a number two and getting spot starts, then transitioning into playing more regularly,” Shuttleworth said. “I feel comfortable now whenever I’m called upon to step in and hopefully that’ll lead to a consistent spot on the team.”
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps made it clear after his side was eliminated from postseason contention that he would use the remaining games to evaluate talent, and that has included at the goalkeeper position. Shuttleworth has started the past two matches and was particularly sharp against the Houston Dynamo, making several impressive stops in the late stages.
Those performances have done enough to give Heaps pause as he and his coaching staff determine what to do with the goalkeeper position for the final three games of the season.
“We’re still breaking it down and deciding,” said Heaps. “I wanted to get Bobby these two games and then we’re going to assess and see where he is. I thought Bobby did really well in the games. We know Reisy really well and we know Reisy’s battled all year. Right now there’s no decision and we’ll see how this week plays out.”
Shuttleworth has been in a similar situation before having played the final three matches in each of the last two seasons – both times after the Revs had been eliminated from playoff contention – but unlike in years past, he’s no longer a young goalkeeper simply looking to get his feet wet.
“A couple years ago I was still trying to catch up to speed in the league and kind of transition away from college into becoming a fulltime pro,” said Shuttleworth. “It’s a lot different now. I’m a veteran in the league now. It’s my fourth year, going to be my fifth year next season and I’m trying to make another transition into being able to play regularly.”