CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Patience is a virtue, especially for goalkeepers.
Bobby Shuttleworth is no exception. After signing with the New England Revolution in 2009, he bided his time, first as the club’s third-string ‘keeper, then as the club’s backup behind longtime starter Matt Reis. Through his first four years as a pro, Shuttleworth made a combined 20 appearances.
But patience began to pay off for Shuttleworth in 2013, when he spent the majority of the year as New England’s starter before making way for the resurgent Reis at the end of the season. That year, he made 22 starts and racked up nine shutouts, one shy of the Revs’ single-season record held by Reis.
That set the stage for Shuttleworth to take the reins in 2014, when Reis retired and moved into a coaching position with the LA Galaxy. After beating out Brad Knighton for the starting gig in preseason, Shuttleworth started 37 games last year and was the backstop for New England’s run to MLS Cup.
“I think it was just another step forward for me,” Shuttleworth said of his first full year as a starter. “2013 was the most games I’d played in consistently throughout the season and that gave me good experience to come into last year and use those experiences to put my best foot forward and help the team.”
It’s not just his experience as a starter which has shaped Shuttleworth, though. According to the 27-year-old goalkeeper, those formative early years when he spent his days learning from Reis and watching games from the sidelines also played a big role in his development.
“Goalkeeping is so much about your brain and positioning and being in the right spot and picking up good starting positions,” Shuttleworth said. “I think that’s stuff that comes in training. It comes from older goalkeepers helping you and that’s stuff that I learned from Matt and (assistant coach) Remi (Roy).
“A lot of times younger goalkeepers get anxious and are impatient and don’t pick up great starting spots. That’s something that comes with games and training sessions and lots and lots of different experiences.”
That’s why Shuttleworth still approaches every training session with the same intensity he would a game. There’s no bigger believer in the phrase “practice like you play.”
“I try to take a mentality to try to improve every day at training,” Shuttleworth said. “If I look at games that I’ve played well in, and we’ve played well in, I think it comes from good weeks of training.”
That mentality is most useful in preseason, when six weeks of training and friendlies lead up to the season opener, set for March 8 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
And that season-opening trip to the Pacific Northwest is as far as the Revs are allowing themselves to look. Talk of another lengthy postseason run and a first-ever MLS Cup title are fine for the fans and media, but the players and coaches are taking a much more micro approach to 2015.
“It’s one thing at a time for us,” Shuttleworth said. “It’s having a successful preseason, getting guys fit, getting guys ready and then coming into the first game and starting the season well. I don’t think we need to be looking that far ahead.
“Just because we were in MLS Cup last year doesn’t mean that we’re automatically going back there again and we all have to understand that. One thing at a time and I think right now it’s working hard to get fit and trying to start the season well.”