There are many probably only two truly sacred numbers in the world of soccer. Number 10 has been synonymous with a team's best player, attacker, scorer since the time of Pele with Brazil, but there's another number that holds perhaps the same amount of weight and importance on a soccer field.
The number 1.
A team's top goalkeeper is often given the one to signify a historic place as the first position on the team sheet. Now that Bobby Shuttleworth has signed an extension with the New England Revolution, it's time to give him the vaunted number as the team's top keeper.
Because for the last three years, yes, I'm including 2013 despite Bobby getting benched late for the heroics of his predecessor, Shuttleworth has essentially been the starting goalkeeper for the Revolution. He started 22 games in that 2013 season, and though he didn't post a stellar record due to late struggles, those games help elevate him from backup to starter. In 2014, Shuttleworth posted a 16-12-4 record with a 1.25 GAA and nearly 3 saves a game en route to an MLS Cup Final appearance. That is pretty good, and Shuttleworth is much better on the "eye test" because a lot of those losses, especially this season, would've been worse without Bobby in net.
Of course, there are still those who think the number still belongs to the legend known as Matt Reis, and that's not unreasonable. Reis owns every significant goalkeeping record/statistic (wins, shutouts, games, minutes played, etc.) in New England and was beloved in his final season in 2013 as the Revs made it back to the playoffs.
@JCatanese43 no that will always be matts number to me— On Fuego for Diego (@GirlSoccergl101) August 25, 2015
@JCatanese43 I disagree. #1 should be retired for Reis.— Brian Little (@BrianLittleMLS) August 25, 2015
Okay, so Hank is clearly making a reference to the "We All Dream of a Team of Matt Reis" song/chant (and not helping) but Brian and others bring up a good point. Is it too soon to give away the vaunted #1 jersey just two full seasons after Reis' retirement? I say yes, and I'm not alone.
@JCatanese43 Yes.— Michael Bonnell (@bonnell) August 25, 2015
As much as I would like to see the Revolution start some kind of team Hall of Fame/Ring of Honor, the only jersey number I can see them retiring outright is probably Taylor Twellman's #20. Matt Reis, Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston, Joe-Max Moore and probably Jay Heaps would be sure bets for the first ever Revs HOF class. But I'm not sure we're retiring those numbers, and not just because most of them are in circulation again.
Bobby offered a little insight into this issue last week when he said that he didn't have a preference of jersey number. He switched from 34 to 22 simply because it was lower and he had been "promoted" to second string/backup keeper. So he should have a number that reflects his status in the squad.
And that means the Revs should at least ask him if he wants to wear #1. He doesn't have to accept it, and it doesn't matter why - out of respect for Reis, not caring about his number in anyway as he said last week - it's his decision and honestly it's not very important.
@JCatanese43 For all we know he was offered 1 the year after reis retired.— Sean Fahey (@SeanEFahey) August 25, 2015
I'd like to think that Sean's statement isn't wrong, but coming out of preseason in 2014, most people thought that Brad Knighton had beat out Shuttleworth for the starting job, myself included. So giving Shuttleworth the #1 shirt the same year he got beat out for the job would've been awkward. I also would have said that one offseason would be too soon to re-issue Matt Reis' number. Now? It's going to be two full seasons since Reis last played for New England and I should remind everyone that he won an MLS Cup last year coaching Jaime Penedo at the Los Angeles Galaxy. Not cool Matt, not cool.
Unless John Odom has your MLS Cup ring and wears it everywhere, then it's completely cool.
Heaps and the Revs stuck with their guy and now with his new contract, there's no doubt as to who the top keeper is at the Revs. Personally, that means giving Shuttleworth the jersey to reflect that position in my eyes. Although reader Christopher Brown came up with perhaps a more ingenious idea:
@JCatanese43 I would give number 1 to a homegrown GK in the future a la Herivaux taking 21. Or if the Revs ever signed a big name GK I guess— Christopher Brown (@cbrown4747) August 25, 2015
This idea I like, mostly because it's already in practice, if only by accident. Homegrowns Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell and Zach Herivaux inherited the numbers of some of the Revs all-time greats in Ralston (#14), Heaps (#6) and Joseph (#21). Yes, Herivaux asked Shalrie for his permission to wear his number as the two had a previous relationship in the youth ranks but still, that's a nice little tradition the Revs have going.
So if Bobby Shuttleworth doesn't want to wear the #1 shirt, that's fine. I think the team should ask him in the offseason if he wants to switch and whatever decision he makes is okay with me. I'd like to think most goalkeepers would covet wearing the number one shirt, especially if they've earned it over the course of a career, but Shuttleworth is perhaps cut from a different mold. Either way, whatever Bobby's been doing has worked out pretty well for him so far so I'll trust his judgement on it.
Plus the Revs have an academy goalkeeper in Austin Aviza currently starting at Syracuse (ranked #15 in preaseason) and he's just a freshman. So when he graduates, in a few years, the Revs have a pretty good homegrown prospect to inherit Reis' number.
Much better than the #0 the Orange gave Aviza to start the year.