Matt Reis' retirement press conference should have been about the fans in New England saying goodbye to a legend. Instead, it turned into a day that was just business as usual, and robbed the fans and Matt Reis of a special moment.
This was supposed to be a time to reflect on the brilliant career of a talented and compassionate individual who impacted a team and region both on and off the field. This was supposed to be a time of celebration, remembrance and perhaps a few dusty eyes for a great player who spent the last decade manning the posts for the New England Revolution.
"This" is the Matt Reis retirement press conference and what it turned into can only be classified as a huge disappointment from a fan standpoint.
As far as I am concerned, the events of December 11, 2013 were supposed to only be about Matt Reis' retirement. A day to read happy columns and fond memories about a player that for over a decade as meant so much to a team, organization and community.
Instead, what many fans got was a short lived moment with their former player as it was announced at noon, just 45 minutes after his press conference with the Revs started, that Reis would join the LA Galaxy as their goalkeeping coach. This would have been completely fine with most New Englanders, except this news was broken by the Galaxy themselves in a press release and announced on Twitter.
And early in the afternoon, news broke that the Revs would be completing a Stage 1 Re-Entry Process deadline deal trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps to reacquire GK Brad Knighton who played three seasons with the Revs from 2007-2009. So in less than five hours, one of the most beloved Revs players and longest tenured member of the team had essentially left town and been replaced. Somehow I had that ending differently in my head.
Now I can live with the online stream of the press conference failing due to technical difficulties as such things happen, but after the entirety of the day's events, it's really piling on to an already pretty bad day. What I would have preferred to have seen is Reis himself announce the news about the LA coaching job, and perhaps the Galaxy waiting a day or two for the official press release. Instead what I saw was a flurry of articles that announced both Reis' retirement and new job in LA, diminishing the impact of Reis' retirement and taking the spotlight away from New England after less than an hour.
That's not going to fly well with fans who ripped the Revolution and Galaxy on social media. The highlights included Jim Powers' (@jimmystagger) Twitter-winning rant (just scroll down to his Dec. 11 history for the whole thing) about the Revs and the hashtag "#RevsTechnicalDifficulties" which reminded many fans about previous exits of former greats like Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston (and the lack of such things as testimonial games like the immensely successful one Brian Ching and Houston Dynamo just had) and others. While I don't condone some of the language used on Twitter towards the LA Galaxy when they tweeted the Reis announcement, the fact remains that the official announcement could have waited.
To make matters worse, as far as I'm concerned, the Revs then completed a very logical and sound transaction in acquiring Brad Knighton in a trade that was reported earlier in the afternoon by Ives Galarcep and Goal.com. It's the timing that drives me nuts. No soon am I reading a tremendous article by Julian Cardillo of the Boston Globe or Kyle McCarthy's piece on MLSSoccer.com than I am typing up the Knighton press release.
Now, can I stop journalists or reporters like Ives Galarcep and Franco Panizo from breaking the Knighton trade and doing their jobs? No. Can I stop Knighton himself from following basically everyone on the Revs roster on Twitter and letting the cat out of the bag on social media? No. But the official announcements, the actual press releases from the teams themselves, can wait. Speculation and rumors about the obvious can be out there for fans to discuss and digest, but officially, there was no reason that LA couldn't have waited to announce Reis as their goalkeepers coach or New England acquiring Knighton.
And I get that there are some rules about the Re-Entry Draft that need to be followed at the Revs made a "deadline deal" to get Knighton from Vancouver. Since there was a plethora of move before Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft last week, I see no reason why the Revs and the league couldn't have sent an internal press release that instead of saying "For Immediate Release" opted for "for December 12, 2013 at 9AM EST." This would let everyone know Brad Knighton was no longer eligible for the Re-Entry Draft and preserve Matt Reis' day.
Because all that I and many other fans wanted was one last chance to remember Matt Reis for what he is: An all-time great MLS keeper, legendary shot-stopper, locker room leader and prankster, philanthropist and an all-around great person on and off the field.
I wanted to spend that day brainstorming ideas for a great Matt Reis testimonial column. Perhaps lamenting how he and Kevin Hartman, two of MLS' all-time great keepers, had the worst luck internationally being born between guys like Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann and Tim Howard and Brad Guzan which effectively shut them out of any chance to make a significant impact with the USMNT. Or wishing that once a year when the LA Galaxy come to play New England (if MLS had a balanced schedule) that Reis would still have his usual charity golf tournament or a similar event that he has run successfully for years.
And instead I and many other fans were robbed of that moment. And I don't want to blame anyone for it in particular, because I'm sure these events were discussed between Matt, the Revs and LA. But there should have been more attention paid to how fans might react to the news, in particular LA's announcement so close to Reis' press conference. Since the technical difficulties robbed Revs fans the ability to watch the event streaming online, most fans had yet to see the video of the press conference when news broke that Reis was going to LA. And all of those events conspired against to rob Revolution fans of a moment to celebrate one of greatest players in team history.
All that needed to happen, was for Matt Reis to step up to the podium and at the end of his interviews, just mention that he'd been offered a job by the Revolution (something team president Brian Billelo did confirm on Twitter) and that he was most likely going to take a position closer to home with the Galaxy as a member of their coaching staff. Done. LA quietly makes a formal announcement/press release a few days later and it's a non-story in New England as far as I'm concerned. And after the year he had and the emotions that he and his family went through with the Boston Marathon bombings, who can blame him for wanting to be closer to home?
Certainly I don't. With everything he and his family went through during the last season off the field I was absolutely not surprised that Reis would accept the LA Galaxy goalkeepers coaching position. It makes too much sense for Reis to be closer to his family and in particular his father-in-law John Odom who lives just south of Los Angeles. I don't think the difference between the Revs job offer (as a community relations/team ambassador) and the Galaxy job made any difference. It was about the location of the job at the end of the day and I have all the respect in the world for Matt Reis for doing what was best for his family.
But that doesn't excuse the timing of the events that followed Reis' retirement press conference.
I don't care about the war of public relations and trying to one up the Galaxy by signing Knighton or the fact that Reis decided to accept a position in LA rather than Foxborough. But the way that news was delivered was poor and timing was worse. What Reis decides to do for himself and his family is his decision and I and many fans wish him the best in his post-playing career. Those cynics who want to bring up the fact that the Revs can never keep former players on staff (despite being coached by a former player) like Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston or Pat Noonan are just wrong to compare any of those situations to Reis' decision. No one, and I mean no one, in New England should have a problem with Matt Reis being the LA Galaxy goalkeepers coach aside from the fact that Jaime Penedo is going to probably dominate MLS next season under his tutilege.
But you are more than welcome to take issue against the official timing of the events that took place Wednesday. LA can say all they want that Matt Reis is a local product and a former player, because it's true. But in the history of MLS, Reis will always be associated with the New England Revolution. He is our player, not yours Los Angeles, and you shouldn't have sent that press release so soon after he retired. I don't care whose idea it was, LA's, the Revs', MLS', if that news isn't being announced by Matt himself than it should remain on the shelf out of respect for the New England fans. Because he will always be wearing navy blue...or well, green and sky blue surrounded by defenders in navy blue, not whatever the hell LA wore before David Beckham showed up.
But most importantly, from the technical difficulties in the Revs media room to LA's presser to the Knighton trade, the whole timeline takes away from what should be a day solely devoted to the playing career of Matt Reis and more importantly the last eleven years in New England. And fans deserved at least a period of time to celebrate those eleven years that should have been significantly longer than 45 minutes.
And that's not what happened.
Instead Revs fans were treated to a day of errors and news that in my opinion disrespected and undervalued the career that Matt Reis had in MLS, but most importantly in New England. For just one day, 24 hours, the only official story in New England soccer should have been Matt Reis retiring. Not his new job, not the new goalkeeper the Revs traded for, just Matt Reis.
Last week was one final chance for mans to say goodbye to a legend. One final time to regale a local late night establishment with a chorus of "We All Dream of a Team of Matt Reis." One final time to remember the close calls in the numerous MLS Cups that Reis and the Revolution never lifted as champions. One final time to remember the last few months of the 2013 season and one last run at the playoffs to cap a legendary career. One final time to remember Matt Reis' excellence both on and off the field as a member of the New England Revolution.
And that moment was robbed from fans by two press releases.
As far as I'm concerned, what transpired on Wednesday December 11th, 2013 is the equivalent of Matt Reis tearing his quad in his final game. Will Revolution fans remember that's how his career ended? Not entirely, most will remember the final 2-3 months in which the Revs went from 7th to 3rd in the Eastern Conference and clinched a playoff spot and three straight MLS Cup appearances. Will Revolution fans remember not being able to watch Reis' retirement press conference or LA's press release? No, they'll only remember the 11 stellar years of Reis defending the nets in Gillette Stadium.
But the fact remains that the endings to Reis' career on and off the field are what they are. And while fans will be likely to only remember the happy moments of Reis career, those endings will always be there.
No one could control Reis' last game on the field in the playoffs at Sporting KC. But they should have been able to give him a better ending off the field.
And it disappoints me that the storybook ending Reis and Revs fans deserved didn't happen.