Revs make 3rd appearance in Desert Diamond Cup
Replacing keeper Matt Reis among soccer team's issues
He hasn’t taken to wearing guayabera shirts or bola ties, but New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps is settling in for his team’s third preseason stay in Tucson as participants in the 2014 Desert Diamond Cup. It's comfortable for him here.
“We really enjoy our relationship with FC Tucson and their entire staff,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about anything … the site, the grass the facility is top-notch. You don’t have to worry about anything else, just the team.”
Coaches break their preseasons up into several phases. Details differ from one coach to the next, but the early part, where soccer teams are trying out new players, is largely over. The Revolution’s Wednesday match with MLS Cup runners up Real Salt Lake will feature two different lineups in the two halves to give reserve players and trialists a go. This will likely be the last time you see that from either team as they try to ready players who will be regular starters.
“We are in our third phase leading to the March 8 kickoff,” Heaps said. “Each phase we are looking at a different dynamic in the group. We are still bringing a couple of players in and incorporating a few more players.”
Heaps anchored the Revs back line from 2001 – 2009, a decade that saw the team in four MLS Cup finals, a win in the U.S. Open Cup and a championship in the now-defunct (and in some quarters unlamented) SuperLiga. He ended a playoff drought for the team last year when they made their first playoff appearance since he last wore the jersey.
One of his challenges for this season comes from the person that stood behind him for three of those MLS Cup finals. Long time Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis retired at the end of last season. Reis was still very near the top of his game. He led the team to a six-game unbeaten streak late in the season, one that earned them a playoff run that was ended by eventual champions Sporting Kansas City.
Playing understudy to Matt Reis since 2009 was Bobby Shuttleworth. After Reis’s father-in-law was injured in the Marathon Bombing, Shuttleworth filled in for him while he was away. Shuttleworth proved a more than adequate substitute, managing nine shutouts in 23 matches.
But competing with Shuttleworth this year will be Brad Knighton, who was Reis’s back up in 2007. Knighton has put in time with Philadelphia Union and the second division Carolina Railhawks in his time since being a Rev. The competition between the two is a good thing, thinks Heaps.
“It’s a battle,” Heaps said. “You’ve got two guys that have been number ones at different points over the last year. It’s always difficult to lose a player and a personality like Matt Reis, but there is huge opportunity. Both guys feel that and they know that.”
“I don’t think you can replace or mimic what Matt Reis did over the last decade,” said Knighton. “It’s my job to come in here and compete for a spot with Bobby. We’re both going to get chances and it’s just a matter of who takes the most of the opportunities when they come.”
“Jay wears his heart on his sleeve,” Knighton said of his experience with Heaps as a player. “You see that with the team he’s had for the last couple of years. He wants that passion; he wants that fire he had when he was a player. Seeing that from afar, it’s something I wanted to be a part of.”
The two possible starting goalkeepers will get a chance to play on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Kino Stadium when the Revolution kicks off their Desert Diamond Cup run against Real Salt Lake.