Bobby Shuttleworth in-match is akin to a Mexican jumping bean.
He bounces around the box, not only in an effort to protect his goal, but also in an imposing display of theatrics to rally his teammates to a good performance.
If a Minnesota United FC defender is in the wrong spot, the goalkeeper isn’t shy about, well, screaming out a correction. And if that defender makes a good play, it elicits the same decibel level, just this time in a congratulatory fashion.
“I do have a bit of a screw loose when I’m playing,” Shuttleworth said.
The Tonawanda, N.Y., native brought that demanding on-field persona with him from the East Coast when he joined United shortly before the start of the season in a trade with the New England Revolution. But the off-the-field Shuttleworth — a much more laid-back, near-stoic version, in comparison — has quietly endured offseason strife en route to a quick ascension to United’s starting goalkeeper job.
Shuttleworth’s mother, Maggie, a single parent of a child with Down syndrome, died in early December at age 60 from melanoma. After doctors initially gave her a six-month prognosis, she beat the odds to live another 4½ years. But for Shuttleworth, who spoke to his mother every day, her death marked the first of many changes in his life.
He needed a fresh start, a way to begin moving on. A physical move to Minnesota was that opportunity.
“It’s been a tough go of it, but she was the type of person that wouldn’t want anyone to be making any type of excuse because of her,” Shuttleworth said. “Definitely with her passing on, it’s extra inspiration, and something I’m going to try to carry every time I play … how lucky I am and how happy and proud she was to watch me play.”
The 29-year-old had spent his entire professional career with New England since 2009 and was the Revolution’s No. 1 keeper for the past four seasons. But he said he could “see the writing on the wall,” with the arrival of Cody Cropper and knew he wasn’t in the coaches’ plans to play this season.
But coming to United, he also wasn’t the automatic first choice. Shuttleworth was the last of three goalkeepers added to the roster and slotted behind John Alvbage as the backup, with Patrick McLain as the third pick. That position wasn’t unfamiliar to Shuttleworth, who backed up current U.S. men’s national team goalkeeping coach Matt Reis at the Revs for most of his young career.
Shuttleworth, though, said he feels like he’s just coming into his prime, having made a trip to the 2014 MLS Cup final. And it only took a few weeks of patience before his United chance arrived.
Shuttleworth played the dying minutes of the second match of the season after Alvbage came off with a knee laceration that kept him off the match-day squad for two matches. And with McLain going out with a concussion around the same time, Shuttleworth became the last keeper standing for the Loons with a short-term emergency addition as his only backup.
He led the Loons to their first positive result in a 2-2 draw at Colorado, endured a 5-2 beating at his old team and then solidified his starting role in the team’s first win last weekend, a 4-2 romp against Real Salt Lake.
In that match, Shuttleworth made at least two point-blank saves, one that earned MLS’ save of the week honor.
“He made a couple of really big saves in the first half on the weekend that kept us in the game,” center back Brent Kallman said. “He bailed me out on one. I had a poor clearance popped to a guy right at the six, and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ And then Bobby came up with a big save and bailed me out.”
Shuttleworth said he enjoys being a person on which his teammates and coaches can rely. And his good friend from the Revs, defender Chris Tierney, said that’s another trait that the keeper brought with him to the expansion team.
“It’s just funny, I think the image that people have of Bobby is this super intense guy on the field, and someone who’s really, obviously, focused on doing his job. You know, you hear the F-bomb sometimes, the microphones pick up on the sidelines there in Minnesota already,” Tierney said. “But he is a really nice, kind of chill guy.
“He’s been through a lot in his personal life, too, which I’m not sure how many people know about, but he’s a strong character. And I think all the stuff in his personal life has sort of given him some perspective, recently, that I think is going to make him a better person and a better soccer player, too.”