Matt Reis wasn't sure he was ready to close the door on a 16-year MLS career, even with an injury that would keep him in rehab until next summer, but one phone call from Bruce Arena was persuasive.
The 38-year-old New England Revolution netminder, one of the finest goalkeepers in the league's annals, is coming home to serve as goalkeeper coach of the LA Galaxy, with whom he played his first five seasons.
“It's amazing how things come full circle and happen the way they do,” Reis told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. “Looking back on the last 16 years, I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and I think that allows me to step away and not have too many regrets. There's always one in the back of your mind thinking, 'Could I go on a little bit longer?'
WATCH: Reis announces retirement
“I'm happy and excited for the opportunity, and our family, I can see the smile on their faces. That makes it a lot easier.”
Reis grew up in south Orange County and won an NCAA championship at UCLA, where he met his wife – the former Nicole Odom, an All-America softball player for the Bruins – and the opportunity to return to Southern California was too good to turn down. Especially after all his family went through after his father-in-law, who lives in L.A.'s South Bay region, near the StubHub Center, was wounded in the Boston Marathon bombing last April.
“Going through that and knowing how our family stuck together and how our family rallied around each other and how we all got through this together,” Reis said, “it's going to be very nice to get home and be close to them and help in any way we can.”
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Reis earned his B coaching license “back in the day” and wasn't sure coaching was in his future. Then Arena called Revolution head coach Jay Heaps at the end of the season to inquire whether MLS's Humanitarian of the Year might be interested in the Galaxy position.
WATCH: Reis career highlight reel
And now on the Galaxy coach staff Reis will be reunited with former Revolution teammate Pat Noonan – "One of my favorite people," Reis noted – and coach the likes of Panamanian national-teamer Jaime Penedo (“I've always been a fan of his,” he said) and fellow UCLA alums Brian Perk and Brian Rowe.
“I have a pretty good grasp on the game, so [coaching] was always something I'd done on the side,” said Reis, who has conducted individual training with kids and worked his share of goalkeeper camps and clinics. “For me, goalkeeping is such a specialized sport, and there's only so many people that do it well. To learn from them is a great opportunity, so I'm happy to be able to pass that on to future generations.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.