In Charlottesville last summer, the Virginia men’s soccer team never had question about who would be the starting goalkeeper. Colin Shutler, whose 2018 postseason was cut short by a concussion, has played every minute of every match during Virginia’s nearly immaculate campaign.
This is despite the fact that his older, more experienced brother joined the squad this fall and an ankle injury threatened to shelve him last weekend in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.
And Shutler will be there again for the No. 1 Cavaliers, who have reported to Cary, North Carolina, for Friday’s College Cup semifinals.
After Georgetown (17-1-3) faces seventh-seeded Stanford (14-2-5) at 6 p.m., Virginia (20-1-1) will play No. 4 Wake Forest (16-4-2). The final is Sunday.
The Cavaliers’ success has been rooted in defense. UVa has conceded the fewest goals in the country (nine) and posted the most shutouts (15).
Goalkeepers typically reap the credit for such miserly numbers, but in this case, Shutler has not had much to do. Virginia’s opponents have recorded 64 shots on goal in 22 games.
Nonetheless, when on the spot, Shutler, the all-ACC first-teamer, has done his job.
The Cavaliers’ possession game leaves foes with little opportunity to generate scoring chances. The 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Southern Methodist — in which Shutler was a game-time decision because of a faulty ankle — marked the second time they had allowed multiple goals.
“A big part of it has been us being able to manipulate the other team,” said Shutler, a junior who starred at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, “and force them to focus on us most of the time.”
Shutler’s strengths — playing the ball with his feet and distributing it — are an ideal match for his team’s style.
“We couldn’t do what we do without his feet,” coach George Gelnovatch said, “and he wouldn’t shine as much without this type of team.”
Although a goalkeeper’s primary responsibility is shot-blocking, the modern game requires keepers to initiate attacks and pass the ball as well as some defenders.
Since he was young, Shutler said he worked at improving his footwork, modeling his game after Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer, the prototype for contemporary goalkeepers who are as comfortable with their feet as their hands and unafraid of jetting off their line to play the ball.
“I love the tactics George has taken,” he said. “Working with my feet was a huge emphasis as a goalkeeper growing up. The game is changing and it’s really helped me get to where I am now and for the way UVa plays.”
While Shutler fine-tunes his footwork, he continues to work on his shot-stopping skills and command of the penalty area.
“The thing he probably needs to develop is shot-stopping and being a goalkeeper for a normal college soccer team,” Gelnovatch said. “Most of what you do for those teams is shot-blocking. You’re not asked to make decisions with your feet.”
Shutler’s brother joined him this season. A starter at Binghamton, Chris Shutler graduated with one year of eligibility left. Having long planned to enroll in the engineering graduate program at Virginia, he also joined the soccer team.
“I was talking to the coaches about it,” Colin said, “and they thought it was a great idea to have him as a more experienced guy to mentor me further mentally and as a morale guy on the sideline.”