Something good happened to Shalrie Joseph on Wednesday, Aug. 1. The veteran MLS defensive midfielder – born and raised in Grenada, West Indies, and graduated from Brooklyn’s Wingate High School before playing collegiate soccer at national powerhouse St. John’s University in Queens (NY) – was traded to Chivas USA in Southern California.
Joseph spent the past nine-and-a-half years with the New England Revolution, the only MLS team he has played for after being drafted from St. John’s in 2002, but the Revs has been in a tailspin the past five years. The team reached the MLS Cup on four occasions (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007) and came away empty-handed each time; Joseph joined the team in 2003. The constant downward spiral prompted a change in the off-season when head coach Steve Nicol (2002-20011) was replaced by former Revs midfielder Jay heaps in an effort to rejuvenated the club.
The trade to Chivas, a team that has been slowly putting pieces of the puzzle together to become a formidable MLS club, will revive Joseph’s career. The 34-year-old four-time MLS Best XI select is seen as possibly the final piece of the building blocks that Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser has been putting together the past two years. Joseph is expected to team with Ecuadorian Oswaldo Minda to form what some believe could be one of Major League Soccer’s most effective central-midfield tandem.
“Obviously, Shalrie is a very, very accomplished player in this league,” Fraser said following Chivas’ 1-1 MLS Reserve League draw Friday morning against Vancouver. “He’s a winner, he’s a battler. I remember playing against him his first game into the league; I thought, ‘Oh, this kid’s a pretty good player.’ And he’s sure surpassed that.
Fraser, continued, “He’s a very intelligent player at both ends of the field. Very solid in the defensive end, certainly very competent and potent at the attacking end. We’ve seen many times in the past where New England needs something, so they put him up front and he scores a goal. They need him to play in the back, he prevents goals. You need him to connect through the midfield, he does that. Bringing him into the mix is certainly going to help.”
Fraser, though, is expected to use Joseph strictly in midfield. When Fraser talks about “connecting through the midfield,” he expects service from the new midfield duo for recently acquired U.S. national team forward Juan Agudelo and his frontline partner, Colombian Juan Pablo Angel. Both Agudelo and Angel, former New York Red Bulls forwards, are very familiar with Joseph from their previous battles in the Eastern Conference. The hope is that Shalrie’s arrival will help Chivas to shed the reputation as the league’s worst offensive team; the club has managed 14 goals in 20 games so far this year.
“It’s a work in progress to build a team,” said Fraser, who was born in Jamaica and a former U.S. national team defender. “As you grow and you maybe accomplish this, [there are things that] could maybe be tweaked to make us a little sharper and a little better. I just think in terms of putting together a complete team, [acquiring] a player like Shalrie is something that will move us closer in that direction.”
Joseph is expected to debut for Chivas against cross-town rival Los Angeles Galaxy Saturday in what is billed as SuperClasico.
The Pacific Northwest is slowly becoming the Mecca of US soccer. Another MLS attendance record was set last Sunday night when the Seattle Sounders drew 60, 908 spectators at CenturyLink Field in Seattle to trounced the Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-0. The crowd was the largest to see an MLS regular season game; games like these are what MLS needs throughout to finally convince corporate America that the game has truly arrived. An ESPN audience witnessed the contest, I am sure to the delight of the MLS honchos, which was exciting from start to finish.
Former US national team forward Eddie Johnson scored his team-leading 10 goal in the 12th minute of play to the season to start the ball rolling for the sounders, which got scores from Fredy Montero (51st), Alex Caskey (65th) and Andy Rose (88th). Also out West, the Colorado Rapids ended a six-game losing streak in a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake, and the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas played to a 1-1 draw.
In the East, the Houston Dynamo now leads the Eastern conference after last Friday night’s 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls, and the Montreal Impact beat the Philadelphia Union, 2-0; Sporting Kansas City beat the Revs, 1-0, while the Chicago Fire got past Toronto FC, 1-0. D.C. United downed the Columbus Crew by the same score. Crew’s 22-year-old rookie Kirk Urso died on the weekend after being taken to hospital from a bar early Sunday morning; an autopsy is expected to reveal the cause of death. Canada beat the USA, 1-0, on a Christine Sinclair goal in the Olympic soccer semifinal in London on Monday; the Canadians were scheduled to play Japan, 2-1 winner over France, in Thursday’s final at London’s Wembley Stadium.
USA beat Canada, 4-3, in double overtime to advance to the women’s Olympic soccer final against Japan. The game was scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 9 at England’s Wembley Stadium and is a rematch of last summer’s FIFA World Cup final, when underdog Japan defeated the USA on penalties.