FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Luis Soffner looks like a goalkeeper.
Towering over many of his teammates at 6-foot-4 and built like a truck at a powerful 210 pounds, he has the height and size to comfortably cover his goal and control the box. Those traits helped make Soffner a standout goalkeeper at Indiana University, where he led the Hoosiers to a national title this past December.
But now that Soffner has signed his first professional contract with the New England Revolution, he knows that his physical attributes alone won’t be enough to carry him to the next level. Height and size provide a distinct advantage in the realm of goalkeeping, but Soffner needs to fine tune his entire game in order to thrive in MLS. It’s a process he’s begun in earnest this preseason.
“As a goalkeeper – especially with my size – my footwork needed to improve and get a lot quicker,” said Soffner. “I think I relied a lot upon my height and my size in college, where I could easily make saves and come out and collect balls in the box. But here the speed is just so much quicker that I need to be quicker.”
Working closely with Soffner has been Revolution goalkeeper coach Remi Roy, who’s implemented a series of exercises to improve Soffner’s lateral movement. Roy has also been a key informational resource for the rookie, who prior to arriving in New England never had much formal goalkeeper instruction.
“It’s been night and day,” Soffner said of his improvement this preseason. “Coming here, I was really raw. I knew that I wanted to learn technique and Remi’s just pushed me so hard to keep going, stay mentally strong and physically strong. I can already feel myself improving every day.”
“He’s definitely very coachable,” said Roy. “He’s a very good athlete and most of the time those kinds of goalkeepers are very responsive early. He works really hard and he has the mentality that he wants to learn, so because it’s so early, all those things are going to come together.”
Soffner enters the 2013 season as the Revolution’s third-string goalkeeper, but the 23-year-old understands his primary objective right now is to continue to grow and develop. With Roy’s guidance supplemented by the mentorship of fellow goalkeepers Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth, Soffner’s confident that he’s landed in the perfect place for his maturation.
“It’s a great environment,” Soffner said. “We have a veteran in Matt Reis and I couldn’t ask for a better person to be behind and to show me the ropes … Bobby’s right up there, too. He’s helping me every day. To have both of them and for me to step in and be a part of that goalkeeping group, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”