FOXBOROUGH, Mass -- After 16 seasons, 283 games and 25,120 minutes of MLS action, Revolution keeper Matt Reis wondered to himself whether he’d already played the last game of his career.
Earlier this year, the 38-year-old veteran suffered a knee injury that opened the door for fifth-year keeper Bobby Shuttleworth to assume the starting goalkeeper duties. And just like that, Reis found himself in a new role: the backup.
But on Saturday, Reis returned to the lineup and posted his third clean sheet of the season in a morale-boosting 2-0 win over the Fire at Gillette Stadium.
“I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen again,” said Reis about Saturday’s surprise start. “But I was happy to help the team. It was a big game for us. We really needed the points, and we came out and did everything we needed to do.”
It would be an understatement of the highest order to say that 2013 has been a difficult year for Reis, the longest-tenured member of the Revolution.
He started two of the team’s first three games -- both shutouts -- and seemed poised to hold onto the starting role he’s held firm for much of the previous decade.
Although knee inflammation shelved him for the two games that followed his lights-out performance against Sporting Kansas City on March 23, his injury would become the least of his concerns not long after.
On April 15, Reis and his family were near the finish line at the 2013 Boston Marathon before the first of two terrorist bombs exploded. His father-in-law, John Odom, was among those critically wounded in the attack, and spent weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
Since then, Odom has recovered enough to regularly watch his son-in-law’s team at Gillette Stadium. But with Shuttleworth enjoying an All-Star caliber season, Reis remained on the bench.
That was until Thursday, the day Reis got word from Revolution coach Jay Heaps that he’d be in the lineup for Saturday’s contest against the Fire. Although a goalkeeper change at this juncture in the season is far from orthodox, Heaps believed that Reis had earned the opportunity.
“It’s a little bit feel,” Heaps said about his decision to start Reis. “It’s a little bit (about) going over a lot of film and just seeing where we might need an uptick in certain areas. I thought Matt has been training really well and pushing Bobby, and Bobby’s played great all year.”
To be fair, Shuttleworth’s form had diminished in recent weeks (1.50 GAA in his last six), so the move wasn’t entirely unexpected. Nevertheless, Reis rewarded his coach’s faith in him, and registered a strong performance against the Fire. In fact, his save on Mike Magee in the 27th minute to kept Chicago from seizing a measure of early momentum.
“It was nice to get back out there,” Reis said. “I think that’s one of the things that I have always been good at throughout my career, whether it’s been in college all the way up until now. Even if I don’t get in a lot of games, there’s not that much of a drop-off when I do get in.”
Even though Reis didn’t show any signs of rust during Saturday’s win, he did admit that there was a bit of nervous energy prior to his first start in over four months.
“I think I have been doing this for long enough that the nerves are there, but it’s the excitement,” Reis said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last game, you never know. You always got to enjoy getting out there. It was a lot of fun.”