Coming out of preseason, Matt Lampson won the starting goalkeeping job over Alex Kapp and last year’s starter, Bobby Shuttleworth. This wasn’t necessarily Heath trying to challenge Bobby or him maniacally twiddling his fingers behind closed doors with a chaos theory textbook open on his desk thinking “what’ll happen now?” Matt Lampson earned the starting job fair and square for his performances in the Carolina Cup, but six games into the season he had given up 12 goals and the Loons were 2-4. The 3-2 loss to Portland was the last straw and in stepped Bøbby.
As a card carrying member of the International Goalkeepers Union I wanted to take a look at what makes Bøbby, Bøbby? I dissected hours of footage from every game this year to break down his strengths and weaknesses. It’s time to rebuild our fearless leader from the ground up.
Footwork: For any goalkeeper, footwork is crucial. Like any player, they need to be able to change direction in a flash, but unlike others, they have to be able to throw their whole body in one direction at a ball going upwards of 70 miles per hour. Bobby has great balance, but not great footwork as a whole. His ‘set,’ that little hop that goalkeepers take right before the shot is taken, is a little slow. It keeps him upright a little longer and makes him a little less able to reach those shots right in the corner.
Speed: One thing that Bobby does have above all else is the speed off his line. This isn’t in the sweeper-keeper style where he’s out clearing through balls, but he is very quick to the feet of a striker and across his goal line, which allows him to make typically easy shots very challenging for attackers.
Overall Feet Grade: B
Wrists: On one hand, this is the easiest part of goalkeeping. Use your hands, stop the ball from going in the goal. The thing about your hands is though, if you’re going to use them, you’ve gotta use them right. The most noticeable thing that Bobby does over most other goalkeepers in the league is that his punches and parries go away from the goal. The Loons rarely give up tap-ins off of rebounds because if Bobby isn’t catching the ball, he’s punching out of the danger area. This takes a lot of pressure of the defense to be the first to react and allows them to reset.
Hands: The second notable thing about Bobby is that more often than not he uses his top hand to parry high balls. This is best exemplified on his save from Brek Shea from MNUFC vs Vancouver Part 1: The Happier Times.
YOU SHALL NOT PASS pic.twitter.com/VEUmnGloOi— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) May 5, 2018
Use of the top hand allows him to reach further and get more purchase on the ball. The also helps keep his top shoulder in and allows him to land and roll back to his feet. Reaching with the bottom hand forces your bottom shoulder up and puts you on your back. Not a pleasant landing.
Overall Hands Grade: A
90% of goalkeeping is between the ears. Even as your body gets past the age at which most field players would retire, goalkeepers can use their experience to extend their careers. The best goalkeepers truly are like a fine wine: once found in Italy, but now maybe in France.
Positioning: This was the final straw that pushed Matt Lampson from the lineup. He was too vulnerable to shots at the near post, something brutally exposed by the Portland Timbers. Shuttleworth isn’t necessarily better when it comes to positioning, but he does have the speed necessary to make up for his shortcomings. Additionally, strong wrists allow him to push the ball out of danger even when he isn’t able to get a whole hand on it.
Box Command: This has to deal with how well he organizes his defense. As the last line of defense, you are the General. The goalkeeper has the best view of the field and has to organize the players in front of them to cover all possible angles. Most of the shots of Bobby yelling are when the ball of out of play, not of him actively organizing the play. Additionally, he has posted a -6.23 in Expected Goals Against to Goals Against on American Soccer Analysis. This would suggest that when push comes to shove, it’s down to his skills and experience that prevents the Loons from conceding, and not necessarily great organization at the back.
Vision: In addition to being the last defender, the goalkeeper is also blessed with the responsibility of being the first attacker. While by no means a bad passer and distributor, he also isn’t going to be threatened in his playmaking role when finally comes along. The thing that makes Shuttleworth special is that he always has his head up after making a save. No laying on the ground, no loitering in the box, not dawdling. He is back on his feet right away and looking to move the ball upfield.
Bravery: Bobby has two things that all great goalkeepers have. The first is a complete lack of disregard for personal safety.
Soccer is a contact sport— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) May 7, 2017
Here's your Man of the Match pic.twitter.com/cQ9LRNBrst
None of the things that I’ve talked about here matter one bit if he’s not willing to put his body on the line to protect his team. The second thing is that it’s pretty clear that he enjoys making saves. Strikers enjoy scoring, defenders enjoy a good slide tackle, but the joy that a goalkeeper gets from looking a striker in the eye and foiling them is second to none. The way Bobby plays lets you know that he gets a special joy from the role he plays in this team and that helps to feed his teammates as well. The team plays a whole lot better when there someone back there they can trust.
Overall Head Grade: B+
Bobby Shuttleworth is closing in on 200 MLS appearances. If he stays with the Loons he will hit that milestone early next season. As a 10 year veteran he brings a lot of experience, wit, and guile to the starting XI week in and week out. Every goalkeeper is a little bit crazy and the best ones are a little more than a little bit crazy. The Loons have their hands on one that might be just crazy enough.