FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England goalkeepers Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth have spent the better part of two months jockeying for position in the race to earn the starting nod for Saturday's season-opening trip to Chicago (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
In stark contrast to previous seasons, Reis and Shuttleworth entered training camp essentially on level terms. Reis, the established fixture between the sticks, earned the nod for most of the matches last season until Shuttleworth, the rising backup with an eye on a regular place in the side, finished the season with five consecutive starts.
WATCH: RevolutionSoccer.net's Box-to-Box
“Throughout the years, I've tried to put myself in position to be competing for a spot,” Shuttleworth told MLSsoccer.com. “This year, it's been the most competitive that it's been. Whichever way Jay [Heaps, Revolution manager] decides to go, it'll be good for the team. Both Matt and I are more than capable and ready to go.”
The increased competition – a process that started in earnest when Reis dropped out of the side for a pair of games last July – has yielded benefits for both players, according to Reis.
“It's been great,” Reis said. “When I've done well – and when players do well – is when they have someone pushing them. When that competition is there, you know you can't take any days off and you have to be at your best. Sometimes, you have to go a bit beyond that. I think that has happened. For both of us, I think it's making us better.”
Even if Reis and Shuttleworth both hit top form, only one of them can earn the shirt for the date against the Fire at Toyota Park. The narrow margins in this race suggest that verdict rendered by Heaps this weekend will not necessarily conclude the battle.
“Whichever way it goes [against Chicago], it depends on how that person is playing,” Shuttleworth said. “I don't think the competition is done once the first game is played. I think it'll be an ongoing process depending on how people play. We'll see how things shake out.”
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.