Saturday night's win over the Philadelphia Union was an undoubtedly emotional experience for the New England Revolution. It was their first home match since Kevin Alston was diagnosed with leukemia and forced onto the disabled list while receiving treatment, and it was the first home match since the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon that left so many in the New England area adversely affected.
Dealing with a teammate's cancer diagnosis really hits home, but the Revs have had to deal with the latter tragedy impacting the team with personal force as well. Goalkeeper Matt Reis was near the finish line when the bombs went off, and his father-in-law John Odom was seriously injured in the blasts.
In response to both significant media inquiry and the massive outpouring of support he's received, Reis held a press conference before Saturday's match to address the events and provide an update on his family's status. Full audio can be found on the team website. It was obviously a difficult and emotional ordeal for the Revolution legend, but he recapped the events before taking questions.
"There were seven of us there: my oldest son Jacob, my brother-in-law Donnie Odom, my father- and mother-in-law John and Karen Odom, and my wife's kinda adopted brother Andy Johnson and his wife Carolyn," said Reis. They were there to support Reis' wife, who was running in the marathon for the Patriots' charitable foundation.
"The seven of us probably got into the finish line probably about ten minutes before the first blast happened."
Reis took his seven-year-old son, Jacob, further down the road toward the finish line, where they would be able to get a better view of his wife as she crossed. His brother-in-law Donnie followed. This was roughly two minutes before the first bomb went off.
"Next thing you know, the bomb went off and I knew where it had come from," he said. "I handed my son off to my brother-in-law and I told him that I was going to come back and get his dad. I didn't know at the time that his dad was injured, that my father-in-law was injured; I just knew that I had to go back and see and help if I could."
Reis found his father-in-law, John, bleeding from his leg and in obvious agony. His mother-in-law was tending to him. Using his belt, Reis fashioned a makeshift tourniquet to stop the bleeding until someone arrived with a real tourniquet and took over triage.
At that point, according to Reis, he switched gears and went back for his son, who had been moved to the basement of a nearby hotel. After collecting him and finding his wife further up the race route, the family went to the hospital where John was receiving emergency care.
"He had received a wound that went from the outside of his left leg, through his left leg, and embedded itself into his right leg," described Reis. "It was one wound, but with the force that it took for that to travel all the way through his body it created quite [a lot of] damage in there."
Since then, Odom has been through several surgeries, but Reis says the prognosis is optimistic. He's been downgraded from critical to serious condition, and is now talking and communicating with the family.
Reis recognized the role of the first-responders in saving his father-in-law's life.
"From the time that I had left him, my brother-in-law and mother-in-law had flagged down some firefighters that had a backboard and got him on that and got him to the tent and out to an ambulance. Re-creating everything, it seemed like from the time the blast happened and the time that he got to the hospital was only about 20 minutes, so we were really fortunate for that."
Since the tragedy itself, there's been a whirlwind of media coverage, public outcry, and general emotion surrounding the search and eventual killing/capture of the suspects allegedly responsible for the bombing. Dzokhar Tsarnaev and his late brother Tamerlan are accounted for, and the public has begun to cry for justice.
For Reis, though, the bombers haven't been much on his or his family's minds. Despite the way the tragedy has affected those he loves, he feels the alleged terrorists failed in whatever they were trying to accomplish.
"To see what these people tried to do, and how crudely they did it, what they tried to take from us, I guess they didn't realize what that would do to our city, and how it created such a love and support around the people that it has affected," he said. "That they kind of went about it the wrong way. Instead of creating hysteria and despair, they really created a lot of hope."
For the most part, despite the difficult nature of the events he spoke about, Reis' message seemed to be one of thanks.
"The outpouring of support for my family and everything that we're going through has been absolutely tremendous," he said in his opening statement. "We can't thank them enough, and we can't say thank you too many times."
While soccer has taken a backseat to the urgent family issues Reis has been presented with, he still managed to suit up as the bench goalkeeper for the Revs in their 2-0 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday night.
During warm-ups, instead of reading "Reis," his usual number-one jersey read "Odom," in honor of his father-in-law.
Everyone at The Bent Musket wishes Matt's father-in-law a speedy recovery. Our thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes are with him and his family at this time, and we thank him for taking the time to share his experience with us despite its obvious difficulty. We are Boston Strong, and as the Fort always sings, we truly do dream of a team of Matt Reis.