FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Matt Reis grew accustomed to seeing his name on the team sheet. It landed there week after week for the better part of a decade, placing him in his familiar role as the number one in New England.
Personal and professional circumstances altered that reality earlier this year. The unanticipated combination of injury and tragedy removed Reis from his usual perch in the early stages of this season and compelled him to step away from his teammates for a brief period to tend to his familial needs. Now he sits and watches Bobby Shuttleworth every weekend.
It is a new scenario for him, one he hasn't experienced since he won the starting job in 2004. The entire situation leaves him with a profound appreciation for the chance to potentially take the field when the Revolution face D.C. United in a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinal tie on Wednesday night.
“I'm no fool,” Reis told MLSsoccer.com. “I'm getting down to the end of my career. Any time you have a chance to get out and play, you relish those opportunities and you try to take advantage of them. With everything that has gone on in my life, I realize it's a true pleasure and a joy to be out here. Any time you have a chance to play, it's an honor. It's something that I look forward to doing.”
Reis has not done it much recently. He has registered just two Open Cup starts since his last league appearance in the scoreless draw with Sporting Kansas City on March 23. He has instead spent the past few months addressing family concerns and pushing Shuttleworth for his place in the team. The task may have changed for him with Shuttleworth increasingly entrenched as the starter, but his desire to prepare and his desire to play have not.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps lauded Reis' professionalism over the past few months and noted his role in the club's success in recent months.
“There is no question in my mind that we have two number ones,” Heaps said. “The two guys are battling. That was part of our strategy as a staff, to have this competition with guys pushing. If Matt's not here, I don't think Bobby is as prepared as he is now. I think the two of them, together, battle with each other.”
Shuttleworth continues to earn the upper hand in the tussle with his displays on matchday and the team's recent success. Reis accepts the binary nature of his position after all of these years and understands how these matters work. He knows that his time may or may not come again at some point this season, but it probably isn't coming right now.
“The team's been playing well,” Reis said. “Bobby's been playing great. It's hard to really to raise too much of a complaint when the team is winning games. I'm just trying to do every day what I have done in the past, that's what I've always done in the past. If the coach needs me, then he needs me. I'm available if he needs me. Bobby's doing everything he needs to do right now and we're playing well.”
And Reis hopes to contribute to the cause against United and sustain the Revs' Open Cup run. The 38-year-old will likely receive the chance to start once again in this one-off affair, resuming the role he held before fate intervened. The situation changed some time ago, but the thrill of seeing his name in the starting XI remains the same.