When the Chicago Fire announced the signing of goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth earlier this year, reaction among Fire fans was strong.
“Going to take a minute to get over his history with the Revs.... OK, welcome aboard!” one fan wrote here on Hot Time in Old Town.
That’s putting it nicely. A lot of Fire fans flat out hated Shuttleworth during his successful run with the New England Revolution. In 2014, while the Fire were busy breaking the league record for ties in a season—“We could tie a pair of Velcro shoes,” Mike Magee once said—Shuttleworth was anchoring a stellar Revs team that made an appearance in the MLS Cup, before losing to Landon Donovan’s LA Galaxy.
He’s just one of those players you love to hate, unless he’s on your side. Shuttleworth laughed about his reputation in Chicago.
“I played for New England for so long, and you play against the teams in the East so many times that the fans have a tendency to see your name quite often,” Shuttleworth said. “If you’re successful against those teams, then it makes sense that you’re not going to be their favorite player. So yeah, I’ve come across it in a few different places but it’s not something that really bothers me all too much.”
The Buffalo, New York area native spent eight years in New England—first, as backup to Matt Reis—and then a starter in his own right. He spent most of the last three seasons at Minnesota United, and the back half of last season on loan at USL side Sacramento Republic.
Shuttleworth was left out of contract after the Sacramento loan move, and he spent the winter looking for the right opportunity. In Chicago, he found it.
“It’s kind of a long process, but then it all happens fairly quickly,” Shuttleworth said. “The season ends, and then I was out of contract. So, it’s just trying to find a new team and find a situation I thought was best for myself and my family. It’s a lot of waiting, and all of a sudden it happens in a few days.
“Things came together pretty quickly, and then I met the team in Tampa. We’ve kind of been on the road since then, so it’s all been pretty positive so far.”
Shuttleworth said it’s been great getting to know his fellow goalkeepers—Kenneth Kronholm, new signing Connor Sparrow, and Gabriel Slonina, or “Gaga” as he’s known among his teammates. New Fire goalkeeper coach Adin Brown was Shuttleworth’s teammate with the Revs.
“I knew Adin previously, so I was excited to come work with him,” Shuttleworth said. “He’s been nothing but fantastic so far. Positive. Same thing with all the goalkeepers. It’s been really, really great working with all three of them. Kenny, Connor and Gaga.”
Shuttleworth’s been both a starter and a backup during his lengthy MLS career. Like any player, he wants to start. But, Shuttleworth is ready to help the team however he can.
“As a professional player you obviously want to try to push yourself and play in every single game possible,” he said. “That being said, I’m not the person that makes that decision, and my job is to play to the best of my ability and make that decision as difficult for the manager as possible. If I’m not playing, then I’m doing my best and pushing the other goalkeeper. Right now I’m just focusing on being as best I can, and helping where I can.”
After Sean Johnson joined NYCFC after the 2016 season, Chicago’s had a revolving door of starting goalkeepers—Jorge Bava, Richard Sanchez, Stefan Cleveland, Matt Lampson, Patrick McLain and David Ousted all come to mind—before landing on Kenneth Kronholm midway through the 2019 season. It’s an area where the Fire will have to find stability, but Shuttleworth thinks the current crop of keepers is a solid one.
“I think it’s a good group, and the month that I’ve been here we’ve been really pushing each other and improving,” Shuttleworth said. “Hopefully, goalkeeper can be one of the stronger parts of the team this year.”