FOXBOROUGH - Goalkeeping has almost always been a Revolution strength. Adin Brown, Jeff Causey, Jose Carlos Fernandez, and Walter Zenga helped the team set standards in cup and playoff competitions, and Ian Feuer and Juergen Sommer were US national team performers.
Brown (Aalesund, Norway) and Fernandez (Deportes Melipilla, Peru) continue to perform, while Sommer (US national team assistant) and Zenga (Dinamo Bucharest manager) are in professional coaching positions.
The Revolution will be playing in their sixth domestic final when they meet the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup in Washington, D.C., Sunday. And the only goalkeeper to lead them to a title - the 93d US Open Cup last month - has been Matt Reis. The Revolution lost in the '01 US Open Cup with Fernandez and the '02 MLS Cup with Brown. Reis was in goal in the '05 and '06 MLS Cups.
Reis was a Los Angeles backup when the Galaxy defeated the Revolution in the '02 final, and he moved to New England the following season. In fact, Reis displayed the anticipation a goalkeeper needs on the playing field in making the move, reasoning that Brown was hoping to move to Europe and also had been injury-prone.
Reis was convinced by Revolution coach Steve Nicol that he would get a chance to be the starter. He did not want to repeat his experience in Los Angeles, where he was a reserve behind Kevin Hartman with the Galaxy after backing up Hartman at UCLA.
"Adin had a year on his contract and there were indications he would be going to Europe," Nicol recalled. "We had the opportunity to get [Reis], and we told him he was not coming in as a No. 2.
"I don't agree with the No. 1/No. 2. Adin was clearly established with us but if [Reis] got a chance and did well, I was not changing the team. In Los Angeles, Hartman was the guy who played, but we didn't look at it like that; I wanted to use the guy who was in form."
Reis needed the opportunity the Revolution provided.
And the Revolution needed Reis's dependability and tactical versatility to evolve into a team that attacks from a 3-5-2 alignment.
"We were talking about the situation coming here the other day," Reis said. "Pat Noonan and Shalrie Joseph came in that first year ['03]. Any team with the opportunity to pick up three players like us would love to do it."
Joseph had passed unnoticed through MetroStar tryout camps; Noonan was the ninth pick and has scored more professional goals than any other player in the '03 draft; Reis was on the verge of being labeled a career backup.
"I needed to get a look outside of LA," Reis said. "The first year here, it didn't happen. But Stevie has given us all a chance, and that's all some players need, a fair chance, then they have to prove the rest.
"There are players who get buried away on certain teams that have a wealth of talent at certain positions. And you only have a certain amount of time in your career."
The Revolution utilized a 4-4-2 setup when Reis arrived, and Nicol hoped to continue building the team around that alignment. But the Revolution's strength in midfield convinced Nicol to switch to a three-back system, and Reis's ability as both a shot-stopper and sweeper emerged.
"Matt has quick feet and he's good with his feet, he almost gives us another back," Revolution defender Jay Heaps said. "Because he has quick feet, he doesn't make things look spectacular, and if we have to make a tactical foul, you know he will be in the right place on the free kick."
In fact, Reis seldom makes spectacular, highlight-reel saves.
"He's smart, he picks and chooses well when to come out," Nicol said. "And when he does, I don't remember him coming out and dropping the ball and causing us problems. He's not getting clattered [by attackers], and the saves he makes are usually because of positioning, so he's not diving and getting himself in positions to get hit.
"Every team in every game gets chances where they could score. So you need your goalkeeper to be strong. In the Chicago game [a 1-0 win in the Eastern Conference final], that Calen Carr header Matt saved, he made it look easy. If they score, the whole thing changes. And every team needs a goalkeeper to do that."
Houston will be missing starting midfielder Ricardo Clark (suspended) and possibly forward Brian Ching (left calf) in the MLS Cup. Ching was projected as "doubtful at best" by Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear. Clark also missed last year's final because of suspension. The Dynamo were awaiting a possible review by the MLS disciplinary committee of a hard foul committed by Nate Jaqua in the first half of a 2-0 win over Kansas City in the Western Conference final Saturday. Nicol said the Revolution would not request action by the committee.