Offseason checklist: Goaltender decisions

Ninth place wasn’t the finish Jay Heaps envisioned when he took over the Revolution’s head coaching reins last autumn. No question.

But the 2012 season wasn’t a complete bust. Not only did the Revolution improve in the goals scored (39), goals allowed (44) and home record (7-4-6), but they nearly doubled their win total (9) from 2011.

Yes, the Revolution regained a considerable measure of respectability as a result. But, there’s still

plenty more to accomplish before the club becomes a contender again.

With that idea in mind, we’ll be looking at each position and examining which areas need to be addressed during the winter.

In the first of a four-part series, we’ll take a look at the team’s goalkeepers: Tim Murray, Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth.

Overview: For the first time in nearly a decade, the Revolution found themselves with a bona fide goalkeeper controversy on their hands in 2012.

The season started with Reis as the firm starter, and he certainly played like one in the first half of the season. Through 16 games, the veteran keeper posted three shutouts and stopped 50 shots, bringing the club within two games of.500. But after a pair of shaky performances at Toronto (June 23) and vs. Seattle (June 30), Heaps decided to make a change.

Enter Shuttleworth. Even though the fourth-year keeper only saw action when injuries forced Reis to the sidelines, Heaps believed that it was time to give Shuttleworth a shot, regardless of Reis’ health. On July 8, the 25-year-old keeper stepped in and made three saves en route to a 2-0 win, while Reis watched from the bench. However, Reis was handed back the starting job two games later, and news only got worse for Shuttleworth, who suffered a sprained left knee in late July.

Then, for the final five games, Heaps went back to Shuttleworth, who closed out the season with back-to-back shutouts and finished 2012 with a 0.71 GAA -- more than half of Reis’ 1.44 GAA.

Meanwhile, third-string keeper Tim Murray was once again limited to reserve league action. He went 0-2-1 with a 2.33 GAA in three appearances. Even though he was elevated to second-string keeper in the wake of Shuttleworth’s mid-season injury, he has yet to make his first-team debut.

Outlook: After serving as the backup for three years, Shuttleworth asserted himself in 2012 and showed why he’s capable of taking over between the sticks.

Prior to the season, Shuttleworth seemed especially hesitant inside his box, and failed to provide much of a vocal presence. But in 2012, he made a considerable leap forward -- one large enough to give his head coach the confidence to hand him the reins, even with a healthy Reis at his disposal.

While that’s good for Shuttleworth, it may also spell the end of the road for Reis as a member of the Revolution. In an ideal world, Heaps would retain both keepers and allow Shuttleworth more seasoning with Reis serving as a safety net. But with the club unlikely to offer Reis an extension, it doesn’t look promising that both will be back in 2013. Meanwhile, Murray may be back given his price tag, and could compete for the second-string spot next season. Then again, it’s entirely possible that the front office may search for a veteran keeper to help Shuttleworth along in his development.

Bottom line: It may be too early to say who’ll start between the sticks in 2013, but all signs point to Shuttleworth. Granted, Reis remains one of the league’s best keepers. However, the mid-summer trade of Shalrie Joseph has shown that Heaps isn’t afraid to part ways with a proven veteran. That said, chances are that Reis walks during the offseason, while Murray stays to compete for the second-string spot should the team bring in another candidate during the offseason.