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While disappointed about switch, Fire goalie Bobby Shuttleworth aiding Gabriel Slonina

The Fire have decided to get the young Slonina playing time as the season ends, relegating Shuttleworth to the bench.

Bobby Shuttleworth reacts during a game earlier this season in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
AP Photos

Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was disappointed when then-coach Raphael Wicky told him his playing time would be slashed so Gabriel Slonina could see more action. But he also remembered how veteran Matt Reis approached a similar situation when Shuttleworth was a young goalie with the Revolution, and how much the late-season playing time with out-of-contention New England teams prepared him for future matches.

“The same thing was done for me, so I wasn’t going to have a bad attitude about it and say that I didn’t think that this was right and all that,” Shuttleworth told the Sun-Times. “At the end of the day, this is professional sports and these guys have a plan and that’s what they decided to do. It was done for me, so I kind of understood. Although I wasn’t happy about it, I understood where it was coming from.”

With their playoff chances fading, the Fire decided before the Sept. 19 match at Montreal that Slonina would get the bulk of the playing time in net. And even though Wicky has since been dismissed, it appears the plan is intact.

Shuttleworth, of course, is not a reason the Fire are heading for their fourth straight season out of the playoffs. With four shutouts, he’s been one of their steadiest performers.

He’s also played a role in Slonina’s development. When the switch was made, Shuttleworth told Slonina “whatever he needs from me at any point, I’m here for him, whatever he needs.”

Clearly, Slonina appreciates Shuttleworth’s presence and example.

“Bobby is such a good mentor for me, his discipline and consistency,” Slonina said. “I just learned so much from him in terms of what it takes to be a professional goalkeeper, because no matter what, he was so consistent and disciplined and getting in the gym and recovering. I think I’ve learned so much from him and that’s part of why I’m performing.”

Reis did the same for Shuttleworth, who said the former New England goalie was always willing and open to help. Since that was given to Shuttleworth at a pivotal point in his development, he’s been there to assist younger goalies like Slonina.

“It can be a weird one because if you’re playing, this is a person that’s competitively coming for your position on the team,” Shuttleworth said. “But also, at the same time, this is something that was afforded to me and I think it’s important as a goalkeeper unit to kind of help provide information.”

Calling Slonina a “sponge” because of how much he wants to soak up information, Shuttleworth said he was the same way early in his career. That’s one of the ways Slonina has stood out to Shuttleworth, who noted his young teammate is “incredibly mature” for his age.

Like others, Shuttleworth has noticed Slonina doesn’t carry himself like a 17-year-old, and is already doing things the way older professionals do.

“I think he, as a 17-year-old kid, it’s very impressive to see how much farther along he is and how mature he is at such an early age,” Shuttleworth said. “It’s quite impressive.”