FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A record seven goals in the two legs of the Eastern Conference Semifinals series against Columbus is certainly the standout statistic from the series for the New England Revolution, but maintaining order behind it all was Bobby Shuttleworth.
With a two-goal aggregate lead heading into Sunday night’s second leg at Gillette Stadium, New England knew that conceding first would turn things around in a hurry, and their goalkeeper stepped up to the early challenge. Shuttleworth not only thwarted a number of chances that could have gotten the Crew back in the series, but his six saves allowed the Revolution to cushion the aggregate score to 7-3 with a 3-1 win.
“We talked about how important that first goal was going to be,” said Shuttleworth. “How that was going to change the complexion of the game.”
Needing to make up the two-goal difference, Columbus came out on the attack, firing off 11 shots in the first half. Shuttleworth got his hands on the two early opportunities that were on target, and Lee Nguyen’s goal put New England in front. Moments later, the Crew had a golden opportunity to stay in the series when Justin Meram placed a beautiful cross at the top of the six-yard box. Jairo Arrieta got on the end of it and put a header on goal, only to see Shuttleworth, a mere three feet in front of him, punch the effort away. Holding the lead into halftime effectively put the series out of reach.
“I think in the first half, there were a couple through, and Bobby was in great spots,” said coach Jay Heaps. “For me, the biggest [save] was right after we scored, he made on the header right before half, because if it’s tied going into half, it’s a different story. I thought that save was the one that, for me, really stood out. It kept us afloat.”
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Even an inadvertent boot to the head from Ethan Finlay when both players were challenging hard for a ball in the box could hardly shake up Shuttleworth. After being looked at by the medical staff, the veteran stayed in the game and, four minutes later, made a stellar diving save on a Meram blast from outside the box.
Columbus’ Tony Tchani was able to break through with a header in the 68th minute, but Shuttleworth had done more than enough to hold the Crew at bay until the Revolution had an insurmountable advantage.
“He was unbelievable,” said Teal Bunbury. “For me, he was man of the match. He had some big-time saves, and he’s been playing like that all season long.”