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Revolution In Review: Goalkeepers

Over the next week or two I will be posting a series of articles analyzing the performance of the four major components of the Revolution (goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, strikers), along with recommendations and predictions concerning the future of personnel at each position.

Full disclosure: I have no idea who the Revs are scouting right now, nor am I particularly well-versed in the rules of the upcoming Re-Entry Draft, so some of my more specific statements may come back to haunt me. We will have a full list of draft-eligible players on Friday.

Without further ado, the goalkeepers:

Few of the Revolution’s major issues in 2010 stemmed from play between the sticks this season. Despite starting the season without club hero Matt Reis, the Revs still found quality shot-stopping and distribution from the able deputy Preston Burpo. Even after Burpo’s horrific injury and Reis’ return, the stretch run of the MLS season saw another switch as Bobby Shuttleworth closed out the year in goal, allowing Reis to have a few necessary surgical procedures.

New England may have sat rooted firmly at the bottom of the league table in goals scored, but it certainly wasn’t due to poor goalkeeping.

Matt Reis: Matt missed the first few months of the season recovering from offseason shoulder and knee surgeries, and thus didn’t even make a regular season appearance until June. He posted his lowest minutes total since joining the Revolution in 2002 with only 1,260 played, but also presided over a club-record 390-minute shutout streak.

After just fourteen appearances (all starts) he was forced to end the season early for ankle surgery on October 13th. Despite the adversity faced in the 2010 season (and a relatively poor 1.79 goals-against average), Reis remains the Revolution’s best option at goalkeeper.

Still, it may be worth looking into ways to ship him along in the offseason. Reis is 35 years old and, though still a top keeper, might be reaching the end of his effectiveness in the league. Couple that with the very capable performance of backup Bobby Shuttleworth in the stretch run of this season, and one has to wonder if the Revs will ever find another moment when the risk/reward ratio in moving him would be this favorable.

That said, I would only recommend such a deal if the terms were absolutely perfect for the Revolution. Matt Reis is and will forever remain a firm favorite at the club and any team is better for having him. If I had to guess, he will be going nowhere this offseason.

Preston Burpo: Preston was acquitting himself incredibly well in goal for the Revolution before an unfortunate collision with Dane Richards resulted in a gruesome broken leg and a trip to the season-ending IR. Over the course of eleven starts and 939 minutes, Burpo posted a very respectable 1.53 GAA and two shutouts. In a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas in May he made a career-high ten saves, single-handedly insuring that the Revs would come away with a point in the contest.

Burpo is almost certainly headed to greener pastures this season. If Reis’s recovery goes as it should, the Revolution will have four goalkeepers on the roster and Burpo is the oldest of the bunch. He would make a more than capable backup to Reis but his salary is higher than that of both Shuttleworth and Murray, and three healthy goalkeepers should be more than enough.

Even if Reis is dealt, as I postulated above, Burpo probably wouldn’t stick around as the starter considering Shuttleworth’s performances last season. A trade involving several other players (similar to the one that brought him to Foxboro) or allocation money is most likely.

Bobby Shuttleworth: Barring some freak twist of events, Bobby Shuttleworth is a dead lock for the number two spot on the depth chart behind Matt Reis in 2011. He made six MLS appearances last season (five starts) and posted a 1.62 goals-against average. Despite only going 3-3 in league play, many of the goals scored on Shuttleworth can be blamed on the poor and disjointed defense in front of him.

The 23-year old also made a start in SuperLiga group play, backstopping a 1-0 victory that came in the middle of the Revs’ 390-minute shutout streak. Shuttleworth’s presence in net, coupled with his protected status in the Expansion Draft, appears to have his Revolution future sewn up, at least for 2011. At this point he’s the heir-apparent to Reis, and would likely be the best option to start if Reis is dealt. However, he’s probably still a year away from being an ideal starter.

Tim Murray: There isn’t much to say about Murray, except that he very nearly became the most unlikely goalkeeper to see the pitch for New England when injuries forced him up to second-string near the end of the season. During some of the more meager months, when the Revs injury list read like an entire starting lineup, Murray made appearances on the team sheet as a third goalkeeper but never once saw the field. This after entering camp fourth on the depth chart.

His college stats indicate that, if necessary, he would do a job when called upon; he owns the Providence College record for shutouts with twenty-seven, and posted a 1.01 GAA over the course of his career. The Revolution website describes him as a "young athletic goalkeeper who is an excellent shot-blocker."

Murray’s future is basically inconsequential at this point. He makes the league minimum and is certainly not in line for a raise. With Shuttleworth’s status as the odds-on #2 already established, Murray could either stick around as the third-string keeper and see reserve minutes, or be cut and/or shipped elsewhere to be replaced with another young goalkeeping prospect. I wouldn’t expect the Revs to waste any draft picks or signings on keepers, so expect to see Murray as the third keeper on the depth chart next season.