FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Matt Reis stood up in front of a large gathering at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday morning and reflected upon how far he and his league have come since he first took the field in 1998.
Reis, 38, retired on Wednesday after playing 16 seasons in MLS, the last 11 with the New England Revolution after five with LA Galaxy. He amassed a wealth of collective and personal honors along the way – a couple of trophies for his team and every substantive individual goalkeeping record for the Revs – as he provided one of the key building blocks for New England for more than a decade.
“As an MLS lifer, I played in the league and I'm very proud of where the league has gone and where it is today,” Reis told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I like to think I've had a small hand in it. I like to say that back in the day, we were in covered wagons going across the country, setting up soccer in the United States. It's amazing now because we're in jet planes. The league has come a long way. I'm happy to be a part of it.”
Reis spent much of his parting address praising the people who helped him along the way to success. He grasped the magnitude of his achievements (including four MLS All-Star appearances and four Goalkeeper of the Year nominations) and the meaning of his departure. He grappled with that possibility as the season progressed and understood his career might end once the season concluded.
“We'd been talking about it, knowing it was coming,” Reis said. “I just kept going out there every day to get a little bit better, get a little bit better. Getting back in and playing again was something that was amazing. It was something that I didn't think was going to come again. I really tried to take the last little bit knowing that – at any point – it could be my last game. Going in with that mindset, whether it was my last game or not, I was happy with my performance.”
The contentment and the left quadriceps tendon tear suffered in his final match prompted Reis and his family to move onto the next stage of their lives. He fielded several offers and decided to join his first club, LA Galaxy, as their new goalkeeper coach.
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Reis' departure after 11 season leaves the Revs with a significant vacancy to fill. The club addressed their goalkeeping concerns by trading for Vancouver ‘keeper Brad Knighton on Tuesday afternoon. Knighton, 28, spent three seasons as a backup to Reis from 2007 to 2009 before moving to Philadelphia, minor-league side Carolina Railhawks and Vancouver.
Revolution general manager Michael Burns called the timing of the move “ironic” and noted how Knighton's arrival will create a competition with Bobby Shuttleworth for the No. 1 shirt heading into the first season of the post-Reis era.
“We were completely upfront and honest with Bobby about the uncertainty with Matt at the end of the year. It was important for us to retain Bobby and bring him back,” Burns said. “Now it's up to Brad and to Bobby to prove to the coaches who should be on the field. Part of our job is to make every position on the field as competitive as possible. We think we have done that with two goalkeepers we feel are capable of playing in this league.”