FOXBOROUGH — With cat-like reflexes in net and a competitive drive that motivated teammates and fans alike for more than a decade in New England, it isn’t surprising that Matt Reis holds every goalkeeping record in Revolution history.
And Wednesday morning when the 38-year-old announced that the curtain had closed on his playing career, Reis’s former teammate, opponent, and current Revolution coach, Jay Heaps, didn’t have much difficulty finding a word to describe the 16-year Major League Soccer veteran.
“There’s no other word but ‘legend,’ ” said Heaps. “He literally is retiring a legend, for our organization, for the league. I don’t see anyone coming along to replace that. You don’t replace that.”
In front of family, former teammates, and members of the Revolution front office, Reis officially announced his retirement, ending an illustrious career that started in 1998 — two years after the first MLS season in 1996.
After playing in college for UCLA, Reis was with the Los Angeles Galaxy for five years before being traded to the Revolution in January 2003, and he soon would become one of the faces of the organization.
Reis is a root that has helped MLS grow from the ground up — something he is grateful to have experienced.
“I’m very proud of where the league has gone, and where it is today,” said Reis. “I like to think that I had a small hand in that.
“I like to say that back in the day, we were in covered wagons, traveling across the country, setting up soccer in the United States. It’s amazing now, flying in jet planes, and getting private jets flying around.”
Reis, a four-time MLS All-Star, made 253 starts for the Revolution, posting 93 wins and 66 shutouts.
Reis will join the Galaxy’s staff next spring as the goalkeeper coach, and will help with the team’s academy program.
Reis’s final season in New England was more turbulent than he could have expected. He started the season-opening win in Chicago, but following one more appearance two weeks later March 23, Reis didn’t play again until mid-August.
On April 15, Reis was in Boston with his family supporting his wife, Nicole, who was running the Boston Marathon. His father-in-law, John Odom, was injured in the bombings on Boylston Street, and Reis used items of clothing to make a tourniquet that slowed the blood loss in Odom, helping to save his father-in-law’s life.
After finding himself back on the field in August, Reis helped the Revolution climb from near the bottom of the standings to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. He also made a vital save at the end of the Revolution’s first playoff win since 2009, in November against Sporting Kansas City.
Reis was injured in the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinal against Kansas City, tearing a quadriceps tendon that would have kept him off the field for 5-7 months.
His coach, and close friend, understood how important having Reis’s veteran leadership on the field was in the latter stage of the season.
“We made the playoffs because of Matt Reis,” said Heaps. “It’s as simple as that.”
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The Revolution reacquired former goalkeeper Brad Knighton from the Vancouver Whitecaps for a conditional 2015 draft pick. Knighton will compete with Bobby Shuttleworth for the starting job next season.