Thrust into the spotlight at midseason as Adin Brown struggled with a concussion, New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis has provided a calming influence as his team finished the regular season with wins from two of their final three matches and an opening playoff victory against the Columbus Crew in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The former Los Angeles Galaxy keeper has been steady, if not spectacular, behind a revolving-door backline that has found its way over the past month and a half.
"It's a thing where we're finally getting over our injuries," said Reis. "We're staying healthy. Consequently, we have people playing together and staying on the same page because we can play the same lineup."
Over the last few weeks, the Revolution have employed a physical approach to their defensive duties, as center backs Rusty Pierce and Avery John have settled into form.
Their physical presence rode Costa Rican international Andy Herron out of the final match of the season against Chicago, while an early tackle on Simon Elliott by John in the playoff opener limited the New Zealand international's effectiveness before his early withdrawal in the 63rd minute.
"We're not trying to send any messages," said Reis. "We are trying to win games. If we can hurry and pressure them, we can take them out of their comfort zone."
Defensive intensity limited the Crew to only one real chance on the evening. Reis stayed sharp and got down well to his right to deny a Kyle Martino effort in the 77th minute, one of his three saves on the evening.
"They, as a team, like their through balls to the top of the 18-yard box," said Reis. "[Martino] had the ball and picked his head up to look at goal. He had a good look at it, but I got down to my right and saved it."
The Revolution are quite aware they will see a Crew side intent on overturning the deficit early in Sunday's afternoon's return match in Columbus. But Reis sounded a note of warning for those who believe that his side is only in the playoffs for a two-match cameo appearance.
"Our record in the regular season does not tell anyone what this team is about," said Reis.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.