The 2013 MLS season was one for the history books. It had everything and more for soccer fans not only here in the United States, but in the entire soccer world. This season in particular saw several teams emerge as significant contenders for up-coming MLS Cup titles, one such team is the New England Revolution.
Since the days of having great players on their team like Clint Dempsey, Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston, the Revolution have struggled to be a consistent playoff contender. The 2013 playoffs were the first time the Revs had qualified since the 2009 season. It truly was a terrific moment for New England and for second-year head coach Jay Heaps. After a disappointing exit in the conference semi-finals to Sporting Kansas City, the team was faced with an even bigger challenge to overcome, goalkeeper Matt Reis retiring.
After a 16-year MLS career, Reis decided to finally hang-up his cleats and move on from being a player to being a goalkeeper coach for the L.A. Galaxy. With this monumental exit from the Revolution defense, the question arises now, who will take the place of Reis in goal?
Since the season has ended, the Revolution have taken multiple steps to potentially put the best possible player in goal for their team. Brad Knighton, Bobby Shuttleworth and Luis Soffner will all be given a chance to compete for the 2014 starting job.
Out of all three goalies available to the Revolution, Knighton possesses the greatest amount of experience, especially after he spent time at the Vancouver Whitecaps and Philadelphia Union. Knighton started his career with the Revs back in 2007 and saw little playing time while Reis was active. His amount of production with all three teams has been minimal, but he is also the most experienced of the three goalies currently available. Knighton has started just 33 games during his six-year career, and has recorded a total of 121 saves during those seasons. During the 2013 season, Knighton had his longest run as a starter, as he tallied 11 starts for the Whitecaps, posting a 6-3-2 record during that time.
Shuttleworth saw his greatest amount of playing time happen during the 2013 season, as he started 22 games, posting a 7-11-5 record. He started the majority of the Revolution’s regular season games, but never established himself as a reliable goalie like the way fans had hoped. Out of the three goalies, Shuttleworth has the most recent experience with the club and knowledge of the defensive movements for the Revs, but his value in goal is incredibly weak. One positive note for him is that he did register 64 saves and only 30 goals against him during the 2013 season.
Soffner is by far the least well-known out of all three goalies fighting for the starting position. If you were to take a drive over to the University of Indiana, Hoosier soccer fans know Soffner extremely well. While at the Indiana, he posted a career record of 47-26-11, a goals against average of 0.93 and was influential in the Hoosiers run to the 2013 National Championship. Soffner was acquired in the 2013 MLS Super Draft as the 36th pick overall. Since joining the Revolution, Soffner has not seen any playing time save for one preseason game. The potential is there for him to become an elite goalie in the MLS, but he will have to prove his worth this offseason and show that he can be just as important for the Revolution as he was at Indiana.
Who do you think is the Revolution’s best option at goalie? All three have their strengths and weaknesses, but only one will end-up winning the starting job for the season-opener in March.