At age 38, Revolution goaltender Matt Reis is enduring a season of pain.
He has a lingering knee injury, which cost the 16-year Major League Soccer veteran his starting job.
Worse, there’s the ongoing hurt of his father-in-law’s injuries sustained in the Boston Marathon bombings. Reis still has flashbacks of twisting his belt into a tourniquet to aid a bleeding John Odon.
Over the last decade, Reis — a 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound Atlanta native with a bald head, chiseled face, and infectious personality — has been the face of the Revolution. This season has been a difficult deviation from his norm.
Yet despite the anguish, Reis has become a vital part of the Revolution’s present and future — as mentor to Bobby Shuttleworth, his replacement.
The Revolution (5-5-6) host the San Jose Earthquakes (5-8-6) Saturday night at Gillette Stadium as Shuttleworth hopes to build on an impressive breakout season. In 14 starts, the 26-year-old boasts a 1.00 goals-against average with seven shutouts (second in MLS).
Reis will be on the sideline, and he might not enter the game.
But Reis, who maintains a positive attitude, said he will cheer on Shuttleworth — just as he always does. Then he will train hard next week, hoping to regain the role he held for nine years.
“Really, Matt has been the ultimate professional,” said Remi Roy, the Revolution’s goalkeepers coach. “He’s been through a lot this year but he’s come back strong and really pushed Bobby. He keeps him honest and there is constant competition here. They know at any time the other one can be playing.”
It’s odd not to see Reis backstopping the Revolution. Since joining the team in 2003, Reis has set every franchise goalkeeping record, including starts (243), goals-against average (1.33), wins (87), and save percentage (.722).
Shuttleworth signed with the Revolution in 2009, after foregoing his senior season at SUNY Buffalo. He was a baby-faced 22-year-old, a bit intimidated by the intensity and speed of MLS.
Average crowds for Buffalo games were about 400. Here, he would play understudy to Reis, a star he watched on TV.
“At first maybe I was in awe of him because of all he accomplished,” Shuttleworth said. “But he couldn’t be more welcoming.”
Reis has a history of mentoring younger players, Roy said.
“It’s just something in my nature that I want to help guys and share information,” Reis said.
Reis would give extra pointers to Shuttleworth. It was always suggestions, never pushy — something like, “you know, this is what worked for me.”
“And of course you want to listen,” Shuttleworth said. “He was always willing to help. He really has been terrific.”
Ironically, Reis also had offered advice to Shuttleworth on the difficulties of being a backup goalie. Reis started only 40 games over his first six MLS seasons.
“It’s tough as a backup because you only play in a few games, and you can’t develop a rhythm,” Reis said. “But you also have to take chances. Bobby has done a great job in five years of getting to that point where he’s a starting-caliber goalkeeper.”
Throughout the years, the goalies developed a close friendship. Reis attended Shuttleworth’s wedding in November. And whenever Reis, who now lives in the suburbs, visits the city, he always makes it a point to see Shuttleworth.
“We do spend time together outside of soccer, our families do spend time together,” Reis said. “So it’s a tough position because we are competing for that one spot.”
Shuttleworth played sporadically over the past five seasons. He got the nod when Reis was injured in March, then again when Reis took a week off after the Marathon to be with his family.
Shuttleworth preformed so well — including a club-record 395-minute shutout streak — coach Jay Heaps had no choice but to start him every game.
Roy said Reis has “absolutely not given up on being No. 1” and that the goalie’s knee injury is mostly healed.
Reis maintains he can be ready any time, but is also spending a lot of time with his family.
After 11 surgeries, Reis’s father-in-law is an outpatient at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. He receives treatments three times a week but is improving, Reis said. Reis helped wheel him to the Fourth of July fireworks in Charlestown.
“It’s been a lot of adjustments for us, and it’s been tough,” Reis said. “But we’re up to the challenge.”