When a goalkeeper is going well, a team usually goes well. When a team is going well, a goalkeeper usually goes well.
Such is the case with the New England Revolution, who kept their 2005 season undefeated streak intact against the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday evening in a 2-0 victory at Arrowhead Stadium in which the Revolution took control of their destiny throughout.
The Revolution took advantage of a sleepy Wizards defense after just eight minutes when Jose Cancela quickly played a free kick to Shalrie Joseph wide on the left. Swinging the ball quickly into the box, Joseph and the Revs were rewarded when the ball was deflected by a recovering Sasha Victorine into his own net.
Enter 30-year-old veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis, who coolly kept the Revs in the match despite Kansas City's 12 shots through good positioning and an amount of fortune.
Seeing a streaking Davy Arnaud run onto an accurate ball on the diagonal toward his near post, Reis cut off Arnaud's angle just enough to force the dangerous Wizards striker's shot wide and into the outside netting.
Reis saved the spectacular for the closing minutes of the first half to preserve the Revs precarious one-goal lead as standout winger Chris Klein played a cross in for Josh Wolff in the 42nd minute.
"I was beaten on the cross because it was such a good cross -- low, whipped in. [Wolff] had beaten his man to the near post, and I knew that I just had to try and get something on it and get in front of it," said Reis. "It's the type of thing where I'm just diving hoping it hits me -- it's just a reaction kind of thing."
Wolff's header glanced off Reis's left hand and then his head before safely exiting outside his left post. Afterwards, the befuddled Wolff and Reis conferenced while on bended knees. Reis reminded Wolff of an encounter last season wherein Wolff scored a freak goal.
"Last year he hits it off his fanny wagon and it goes the opposite way and rolls in -- [this save was] a little retribution," said Reis.
Reis's heroics sustained the Revs until they again used good tactical sense to double their lead four minutes on the other side of halftime.
Right winger Steve Ralston played a one-time pass to Joseph after a Revs steal just inside the Wizards' half. Ralston turned and burned for the corner, opening up space at the right edge of the Wizards box -- where an observant Pat Noonan ran to. Noonan received Joseph's clean pass and beat Kansas City 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi to the far post.
"I was trying to get behind the defense myself in case Shalrie was sending that ball to me," said Ralston. "Pat made a great run across the box and kind of lost his guy a little bit.
"We had some good movement off the ball there to kind of stretch them out and move some guys around. Shalrie was able to find the space and played a great ball to Pat and it was a great little finish," he said.
As the Wizards upped their attacking intensity to try and turn over the two-goal lead -- and the now-more compact defense of the Revolution -- the visitors hung onto the string of good fortune that has been on their side most of the season.
Arnaud nearly struck again in the 56th as his left-footed turn and volley had Reis beat, only to rattle off his left post. Then 10 minutes later Kansas City left back Jose Burciaga Jr. unloaded a ferocious liner that Reis was there for, but saw it hit his crossbar near his right post.
"From the final last year you can see that he can hit a ball from distance. He stepped up and hit it and it had a lot of power on it," Reis said. "I was a half-second behind it. It hit off the bar and bounced 65 yards into the air. You could tell he hit it hard."
The strikes off the post and bar epitomized the match for both sides, but only one was left in good spirits in the end.
"It makes me feel good because the team is undefeated. We're in a really good spot. We're winning games on the road, we're shutting out teams in their own home," said Reis, who gained his seventh shutout of the season, a career high.
Ralston acknowledged the Wizards' attacking validity and his goalkeeper's efforts. "The first half especially, Chris Klein was getting behind and playing some very dangerous balls in the box. Matt Reis made one of the better saves I've seen in a long time on the Wolff attempt," he said. "It was nice to get a clean sheet. Matt deserved it with the way that he played."
Something had to give coming in to this match given that the Revolution came in undefeated and the Wizards had not lost at home in 15 consecutive matches in all competitions.
The result followed a season long pattern for the notoriously slow-starting Revolution.
"Everything's cyclic, everything will come back around," Reis said. "I guess with all of our frustration we had last year and all the injuries and everything we've been kind on the return edge of that."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.