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Goalie gets a chance

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / July 18, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH — Bobby Shuttleworth is both Matt Reis’s best friend and backup.

And with Reis, who once encased his coach’s shoes in a mold of JELL-O, Shuttleworth knows certain things come with that kind of relationship.

“There’s too many pranks to name just one,” he said, trying to think of all the jokes Reis has pulled on Shuttleworth in the four years he’s been a goalkeeper with the Revolution.

Since Reis came to New England from the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2003, he’s made himself into something of a monument, leaving his mark on every one of the franchise’s goalkeeping records.

From games played, minutes played, goals-against average, wins, saves, shutouts, save percentage, and an MLS record for consecutive minutes played, the record book has Reis written all over it.

And whenever Shuttleworth, who passed up a year of eligibility at the University at Buffalo to play for the Revolution in 2009, needs to thumb through the record book, Reis is more than available.

“Matt’s helped me since Day 1,” Shuttleworth said. “There’s too many things to list how he’s helped me, and things that he’s seen. He’s obviously a veteran in this league for a long time. He’s seen a lot of things and been in a lot of situations. He doesn’t try to push anything on me. He says, ‘This is what works for me. If you want to use that, that’s great. If you don’t that’s your choice.’ ”

When coach Jay Heaps chose to go with Shuttleworth over Reis two weeks ago against New York and Shuttleworth responded by posting a clean sheet, it sparked an open competition for goalkeeper.

Shuttleworth is 25, with length and leaping ability that allow him to break up plays and take away opponent scoring opportunities. Reis is 37, with 102 wins and 15 years of experience.

Reis waited four years behind Kevin Hartman in Los Angeles before ultimately breaking through.

In his fourth year, Shuttleworth may be to Reis what Reis was to Hartman.

Heaps has gone with Shuttleworth the past two games — a 2-0 win over New York and a 1-0 loss to Toronto — and while at first the reasoning was that Reis needed rest, Heaps has been impressed by Shuttleworth and says he’s open to seeing how the competition plays out.

“I would say this, coming into this year I knew Bobby, I had watched Bobby, but he’s progressed really well from his first year here all the way to this year and I think he’s shown that he can play at this level any day of the week,” Heaps said. “So right now, we’ll see where things go. We’ll watch a lot of film and I don’t want to name one or the other right now. I think right now it’s just a matter of Reissey needing a break and Bobby stepped up and did well during the break and now we’ll see where it goes from here.”

Shuttleworth started seven games last season — all games that Reis missed because of injuries or suspension — and went 0-4-3 and gave up 15 goals.

Before that, he played six games and made five starts in 2010, most notably being thrown into the thick of things in a game against the Red Bulls because Preston Burpo, filling in for an injured Reis, suffered a season-ending leg injury.

Shuttleworth is no stranger to spot duty.

“I’m kind of used to it now,” he said. “It seems every year I kind of get a couple of games around the middle of the year. So it’s a tough thing, but I’m pretty used to it now in my fourth year. It’s normal for me to kind of get thrown in there.”

When he made the decision to start Shuttleworth, Heaps made it as succinct and didn’t attach any long-term meaning to it.

“Basically, they just said, ‘You’ve been working hard. We wanted you to get a game,’ ” Shuttleworth recalled. “That type of thing. It wasn’t a long discussion, it was just kind of, ‘You’re playing on Saturday.’ That’s it.”

Shuttleworth checked his expectations.

“I was really just focusing on playing well and having a good game,’’ he said. “I didn’t really expect anything. Honestly, I’m always hoping to play. So if I’m called upon, I’m more than excited to play.”

The dynamic between Shuttleworth and Reis hasn’t changed.

“Matt and I, we have a great relationship,” he said. “It’s the type of thing where he’s got my back, I’ve got his back. That type of thing. I wouldn’t expect anything different from us.”

Heaps added, “Matt’s been great. He’s a great teammate. He and Bobby are friends. So it’s like anything, they battle hard and they work for each other.”

.   .   .

The collision that knocked midfielder Stephen McCarthy out of the Revolution’s loss to Toronto with a head injury has him listed as questionable for Wednesday game in Montreal. The Revolution play two games in the next three days, and Heaps considered McCarthy day-to-day. “I spoke with him and he’s doing well,” Heaps said. “We’ve got to follow the procedures and we’re taking it right now day-by-day. I don’t know the exact diagnosis but he’s talking with trainers. It’s too early to tell.” Shalrie Joseph, who had been recovering from an abductor strain and knee issues, came off the bench to replace McCarthy. Both Joseph and Heaps complained about Toronto FC’s style of play after last weekend’s loss, pointing to fouls and stall tactics. But Heaps said it wasn’t something he planned to bring to the league’s attention if they hadn’t already noticed it. “It’s as obvious as it gets,” Heaps said. “If you watch that game on TV you realize there was a delay tactic, a foul tactic, but we can’t change it. It is what it is and we just have to deal with it.”  

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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