Bobby Shuttleworth showing his value to Fire, who lose 2-1 to Toronto FC
Earning only $125,750 in guaranteed compensation, Shuttleworth has solidified the Fire’s goalkeeping position.
According to salary information released by the MLS Players Association, Fire goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth is earning just $125,750 in guaranteed compensation this season.
He has been worth much more than that to the Fire, who lost to Toronto FC 2-1 on Saturday at Soldier Field in a battle between teams mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings in Major League Soccer.
Yeferson Soteldo gave Toronto (3-8-4) the lead in the second minute, and Nick DeLeon doubled the advantage in the 76th. Alvaro Medran cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 77th, but the Fire (3-9-3) couldn’t find an equalizer and saw their winless streak reach three despite a 31-8 edge in shots.
When the Fire signed Shuttleworth in January 2020, they wanted him to compete with incumbent starter Kenneth Kronholm. But Kronholm played the first five games of last season before blowing out his knee in training and hasn’t suited up for a match since.
Shuttleworth, meanwhile, has proved to be a shrewd signing by sporting director Georg Heitz, establishing himself as one of the Fire’s leaders and a steady presence in their net. His best performance arguably came in the Fire’s 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on June 23, when he stopped nine shots in the first half and a career-high 11 overall, tying the franchise record.
‘‘Bobby has [had] a good year and is a good goalkeeper back there,’’ Fire coach Raphael Wicky said last month. ‘‘I think teams need good goalkeepers. He does a good job. He does a good job, as well, communicating. He is vocal. He is a true professional. He comes in every day and wants to work hard.’’
Having a reliable No. 1 goalie is important for any team, but it’s even more crucial for the Fire, given some of the issues they’ve had preventing opponents’ chances.
Since trading Sean Johnson after the 2016 season, the Fire have cycled through several starting goalies. They’ve tried players with all sorts of pedigrees and styles, but none had stuck until Shuttleworth, an MLS veteran who previously had played for the New England Revolution and Minnesota United.
In Shuttleworth, 34, the Fire have a dependable starter who’s familiar with the league and won’t make costly mistakes at crucial moments.
And with Kronholm still sidelined, the Fire’s depth behind Shuttleworth consists of 17-year-olds Gabriel Slonina and Chris Brady. Both have the potential to be strong goalies someday, but neither has Shuttleworth’s experience.
‘‘I think the way he lives as a professional is an example for the young players,’’ Wicky said. ‘‘We are happy with the season Bobby [is having]. We are happy with the way he trains and is a leader in this group and obviously happy with the two young kids behind who progress and who also can learn from an older, veteran teammate.’’
Fire defender Johan Kappelhof recently was asked which of his teammates deserve All-Star votes for the game Aug. 25 against stars from Mexico’s Liga MX in Los Angeles. He mentioned midfielder Alvaro Medran, who was coming off a stretch of five assists in three games at the time, and Shuttleworth.
‘‘I’d like to say Bobby,’’ Kappelhof said. ‘‘You know, he saved us a couple of times in important moments in the game. So I think Bobby, as well.’’