With consecutive shutouts behind him and three overall in six starts in 2001, Galaxy goalkeeper Matt Reis is enjoying his best Major League Soccer season.
Not that it would be difficult to top past years. Until recently, Reis has been understudy to Kevin Hartman, 1999 MLS goalkeeper of the year.
Before this season, Hartman, a former UCLA keeper, had started 107 regular-season and playoff games. Reis, another former Bruin who was a third-round draft pick in the 1998 MLS draft, had started only four.
Now, however, their roles are reversed, Hartman watching as Reis does the shot stopping.
"I'm handling it as well as possible, just working as hard as I can and making sure I'm at the top of my game when I get an opportunity," said Hartman, who is 0-3 with a 2.33 goals-against average after allowing less than a goal a game in 1999 and 2000.
The Galaxy plays the Fire in Chicago tonight and the Crew in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday. The last time the Galaxy had two road games in four days, Coach Sigi Schmid started Reis in the first and Hartman in the second. It's not clear what he will do this week.
Reis, 4-0-2 with a 1.10 goals-against average, said he is not playing any different or any better simply because he is starting.
"It's the hardest thing to be a backup goalie," he said. "You have to prepare like you're going to play--because there's always the chance you could play--and then after a while when it keeps on not happening, it wears on you."
AT CHICAGO, 5:30 PDT
FOX SPORTS NET (DELAYED, 7)
Radio--KRLA (870, delayed, 7); KTNQ (1020, Spanish, live).
Records--Galaxy 4-3-2, Fire 4-2-2.
Record vs. Fire (2000)--0-1-1.
Update--Cobi Jones needs six points to become the sixth player in MLS history to reach the 150-point plateau. Forward Brian Ching replaced injured forward Isaias Bardales Jr. (calf muscle) on the traveling roster.