Carrying slim advantage into second leg, Revs buoyed by presence of Reis

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – If the woodwork is a goalkeeper’s best friend, it could also be said that a reliable goalkeeper is a defender’s best friend.

That’s how the New England Revolution’s backline feels about Matt Reis, who improved his 2013 MLS record to 8-0-4 this past weekend after making three saves in the Revolution’s 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City.

This season, Reis became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to go unbeaten while playing 10-plus games, while his 0.72 goals against average was tops in the league. In the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series, he carried that form right into the postseason.

“He’s wise,” defender Darrius Barnes said of his 38-year-old goalkeeper. “He’s a wise goalkeeper and I think he plays mind games with the attackers a little bit. When you have the experience of a keeper like that and he has that talent, it makes it easy as a defender.

“When you know you have a keeper like that to bail you out – obviously you don’t want it to come down to that – but you have confidence that he’s going to make big saves like that to keep you in the game.”

Reis’ biggest save on Saturday night came in the dying seconds, when Sporting KC substitute Dom Dwyer worked free in the left side of the box and drilled a rising shot toward the near upper corner. With one quick reaction, Reis got his right hand up and palmed the ball over the crossbar and out for a corner kick.

“It’s a huge save,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “His reflexes are pretty amazing. I don’t think there’s been a better goalie in the league that has reflexes like that.”

Thanks in large part to Reis’ late heroics, New England now heads to Sporting Park for Wednesday night’s second and decisive leg carrying a 2-1 lead. While the job is only half-done, belief courses through the Revolution locker room following a positive result to open the series.

“In this series, it’s like we’re at halftime,” said Reis. “So we are up 2-1 at halftime and the more goals we have, the more pressure we can put on them. It’s great for us. It’s going to be a tough task going in there and getting a result, but I like our chances.”