CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Battles are waged for playing time at every position throughout preseason, but there is perhaps no bigger battle unfolding for the New England Revolution than at goalkeeper.
The Revs are currently carrying four goalkeepers as Cody Cropper, Brad Knighton, Bobby Shuttleworth, and Matt Turner are all under contract for the 2017 season, and head coach Jay Heaps has indicated that the club has no plans to break up its quartet of ‘keepers any time soon.
“We expect to carry the four guys on our roster,” Heaps said when preseason camp opened last week in Foxborough. “It’s four guys that we’re really excited about.”
There is no shortage of starting-caliber talent amongst the quartet.
Shuttleworth has been the Revolution’s primary starter for the past four seasons and backstopped the Eastern Conference champion side in 2014, while Knighton took the reins late last season and with a 1.25 goals against average earned the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award.
Cropper, meanwhile, debuted in last year’s season finale and kept a clean sheet in the 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact, flashing the potential that earned him 28 appearances with U.S. youth national teams and a four-year stint in England with Southampton and MK Dons.
Rounding out the group is second-year goalkeeper Matt Turner, who was stellar in seven appearances on loan for the Richmond Kickers (USL) in 2016.
While Turner – the youngest of the group – will likely continue to hone his skills behind the veterans, there’s reason to believe that Shuttleworth, Knighton, and Cropper could all lay claim to the starting goalkeeper position, and the battle for that spot will play out through the next five weeks.
“I think going into this year, there’s a real competition,” Heaps said. “I’m pretty open to where we’re going to go in that position. I want to see how preseason goes and see what each of them did in the offseason, and see where they are today.
“At the end of preseason, we’ll make our decision for that first game (against Colorado on March 4).”
Much of the preseason battle will play out during the Revolution’s seven preseason contests, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday morning in Casa Grande, Arizona, against Minnesota United.