Revs goalkeeping must remain a 'good problem' on Saturday

Revs goalkeeping must remain a 'good problem' on Saturday
March 21, 2013, 7:45 pm
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When both Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth are healthy, Reis' name is at the top of the depth chart.

The veteran Reis won the "preseason competition" with the younger Shuttleworth to claim the title of New England Revolution No. 1 goalkeeper.

Reis posted a shutout in the team's first win, 1-0, in Chicago on March 9, but he didn't play in the Revs' second game of the regular season. That was Shuttleworth, thanks to an injury that Reis suffered late in the Chicago win.

"Reis had taken a knock earlier in the week, actually from the game," said New England coach Jay Heaps after Thursday's practice at Gillette Stadium. "And we just wanted to be smart and make sure he was getting better, rather than rush him in before he was fully ready."

So Shuttleworth got the nod. And the Revolution lost.

But the blame can't be placed on the 25-year-old goalkeeper.

"What I liked was, I thought Bobby did a nice job," said Heaps on Thursday. "I think Bobby and Reis have obviously shown that they're both very capable. And that's important to have when you're a coach, knowing that you have a couple goalkeepers that can play."

You've heard the phrase before. It's a good problem to have. For the Revolution, having two goalkeepers battling for playing time isn't something that's frowned upon. The organization, and the players themselves, were open about the goalkeeper competition leading up to the regular season.

Reis won that, but confidence in Shuttleworth still exists.

So as Shuttleworth watched a rebound get blasted into the net after he showed off his quick reflexes by making a save on a Jack McInerney header out front, it was clear what the difference was in last weekend's loss in Philadelphia. And it wasn't goaltending.

"We're disappointed in giving up the goal, not only that goal, but when we gave up the goal and how the goal kind of occurred," said Heaps on Thursday. "Obviously you hate to have learning lessons when you lose. We'd like to win and get our lessons, but we lost and got our lesson. And obviously we have to correct some things."

That goal came off of a Philadelphia corner kick in the 76th minute, and stood as the only goal of the game. McInerney was left wide open out front on the set piece and got a clean header on goal. Shuttleworth was there to make the big stop, but no Revs players were there to clean it up, and McInerney put in his own rebound.

"I think the most frustrating part is that we've really been talking about set pieces and how we need to defend them properly, and we need to score on some," said Shuttleworth after Thursday's practice. "So I think the most frustrating part of it is that it comes down to a set piece, and it's not us scoring on the set piece, it's us getting scored on."

"It's game situation, when and how important it is to be focused on that situation," said Heaps. "We need a little bit more concentration from the team at that point. And a little bit better positioning. I think that we have to take a little bit better position and communication."

Shuttleworth was in goal towards the end of Thursday's practice. He was extremely vocal, at one point yelling to his defenders, "You're making it too [bleeping] easy for them!"

Saturday's home opener against Sporting KC won't be any easier on the Revs, as they'll be missing their top goal-scoring threat in Jerry Bengtson, as he's re-joined his Honduras national team.

Players and coaches will tell you that there are players up front and in the midfield that are capable of stepping up, offensively, in Bengtson's absence.

And sure, goaltending is always huge. As is the defensive play in front of every goalkeeper. But it will be that much more important for the Revs to pick up points while their without one of their top offensive players.

"Obviously you want to get zero's on the defensive end," said Heaps. "Whether you have your goal scorer or not, you want to make sure you're at a minimum and you'e not giving anything away. And that has a lot to do with how we defend, and the goalkeeping situation as well."

As of Thursday, New England hadn't picked a goalie for Saturday's game. That might depend on Reis' recovery. But even if Reis isn't ready to go, the Revolution know they have another reliable goalkeeper ready to go.

"You want them fighting, I think that we've said it from the beginning," said Heaps. "Matt is obviously one of the best goalkeepers ever for this league. And Bobby's up-and-coming, and rising in the ranks. So they have a good relationship, not only on the field, but off the field. And then they also have a good competition going as well.

"In terms of that, I think there's no question, that right now, when Matt's healthy, as for the first few weeks, it's going to be Matt. When he can go, he goes. But it's nice to have Bobby willing and ready and having the ability to step up and play the way he can.

"It's a good problem to have, and we're glad we have it."

While missing some offensive firepower on Saturday, they'll need that goalkeeping problem to remain a good one.