FOX Soccer Exclusive
Joseph out to prove doubters wrong
There are few players in the history of MLS who have ever been more synonymous with one team than Shalrie Joseph, who was with the New England Revolution. He fashioned one of the best careers in league history, playing a decade with the Revs, and there was little reason to think he wouldn’t close out his career in the same uniform his pro career began.
That was before the Revs decided he was expendable and traded him to Chivas USA. It was a move that left New England fans and players stunned, and the normally outspoken Joseph at a loss for words aside from some somber tweets about the trade.
If Joseph needs someone to talk to about being released by a club he had developed strong ties to, he has come to the right team. The Chivas USA locker room is filled with players who were stars and beloved figures elsewhere in MLS, only to be unloaded in some rather surprising transactions.
Juan Pablo Angel? He was the New York Red Bulls’ top player for years before the arrival of Thierry Henry and New York’s decision to cut him loose. A disappointing start with the LA Galaxy ultimately led to a trade to Chivas USA, where he enjoyed a renaissance with a strong finish to the 2011 season.
Danny Califf was the Philadelphia Union’s first captain, and a true fan favorite of the Union faithful before Peter Nowak benched him and eventually traded him to make room for Bakary Soumare (of course Nowak was fired before Soumare even arrived).
Juan Agudelo was also a fan favorite in New York with the Red Bulls, even though he was never really a favorite of head coach Hans Backe. His exploits with the US national team and his seemingly limitless potential made Red Bulls fans salivate. Those same fans were pretty shocked when they learned he was dealt in a big trade that sent Heath Pearce and allocation money to New York.
Two years ago you couldn’t have imagined Chivas USA getting any one of those aforementioned players in a trade. Now all four are on the Chivas USA roster, trying to lead the Goats into the playoffs, and trying do their best to show that the teams that let them go should never have cut ties.
Of the trades that brought Joseph, Angel, Califf and Agudelo to theother team in Los Angeles, none was as surprising as the Joseph trade. As much as injuries had cost him a few games, and as much as New England does have some depth in midfield, there was still little reason to think the Revs were looking to deal him.
Credit to Chivas USA for pouncing when Joseph became available. While he may not be as dominant as he used to be, Joseph is still a first-rate midfielder who will improve the Goats. You also have to wonder how the trade will motivate Joseph. After ten years with the Revs, including some rough losing seasons where he was the best player on a terrible team, a change of scenery might be just what he needs to regain his top form.
Joseph would not be the first all-time MLS great to enjoy a revival after a trade. Dwayne De Rosario was traded twice last year before hitting an MVP-worthy run with D.C. United, and Jaime Moreno spent a year with the MetroStars before returning to D.C. United and helping the team win the 2004 MLS Cup. Jeff Agoos won three titles with D.C. United, but then won two more after being traded to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Joseph isn’t likely to win a championship with Chivas USA, but his move, coupled with the arrivals in recent months of Califf and Agudelo, will give Chivas USA a reasonable chance of making a run at the playoffs. The Goats are still going to need either the Galaxy or Vancouver Whitecaps to falter down the stretch in order for Chivas USA to slip into the Western Conference playoffs, but the addition of Joseph improves the team’s chances.
It will be strange to see Joseph in a different MLS uniform, particularly when he and Chivas USA travel to New England on August 29,but only time will tell whether the Revs were right to trade Joseph away. It will be up to Joseph to make New England regret their decision.
Here is a look at this weekend’s top five matches to watch:
The top two teams in the East square off at BBVA Compass Stadium as the red-hot Dynamo look to continue their seven-match unbeaten streaks (including four straight wins). Houston’s shift to a 4-3-3 has helped turn the Dynamo attack into a dangerous unit and new arrival Oscar Boniek Garcia has really sparked the attack.
The Red Bulls will sorely miss suspended midfielder Dax McCarty, who would slow down Houston’s midfield, but New York will be counting on their attack, featuring the newly-acquired Tim Cahill, to try to overwhelm a solid Dynamo defense. The Red Bulls will create chances, but if their short-handed defense struggles, Houston could make it five wins in a row.
The Galaxy have made an astonishing climb back into the running for the top playoff spots in the Western Conference, and one of the teams they are on the verge of catching is Seattle, which is looking to shake off its own slump in league play.
Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan have stepped their play up and really turned the Galaxy attack into the dangerous force we expected it to be when the season began, a unit that should really test the Sounders defense. For Seattle, an in-form Eddie Johnson leads the way and his match-up against Omar Gonzalez, who has recovered from his torn ACL to reprise his starting centerback role for LA, is the match-up to watch here.
Just two weeks after the Crew edged out a 1-0 victory over D.C. United, Ben Olsen’s team will be looking for a measure of revenge, and, more importantly, looking to end a two-match losing skid that has dropped them to fourth in the East.
Crew forward Jairo Arrieta is coming off an outstanding match and will test a D.C. United defense that has shown some signs of vulnerability in the past month. For D.C., kick-starting their offense and getting Dwayne DeRosario clicking with the attack is the key to D.C. United having a chance of breaking down a tough Crew defense bolstered by the outstanding play of goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
The Impact looked like a very different team last week, with Alessandro Nesta impressing in his first MLS start and Marco Di Vaio scoring his first MLS goal, but they aren’t the only Eastern Conference team looking to climb from the lower half of the standings. The Union enjoyed a strong month of July, but they have just two road wins all year (though one came recently against the LA Galaxy).
The Union have played some good possession soccer, but that may not be as easy to do against a Montreal midfield boasting the in-form tandem of Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins. Both players have been considerably better at home this year, and with Di Vaio providing a stiff challenge to the Union defense, look for Montreal to keep up their impressive form at Stade Saputo.
Two teams coming off very different results square off at Toyota Park as TFC looks to build off its mid-week CONCACAF Champions League rout of C.D. Aguila against a Fire side still smarting from giving up a lead in stoppage time in a draw vs. San Jose.
The Fire offense has been sputtering, going six straight matches without scoring multiple goals, but the TFC defense just might be the cure for that. It will be up to newly-signed Fire DP Sherjill McDonald to show why he was brought in to revamp the attack. For TFC, rookie Luis Silva is in good form and will drive the attack and look to set up forwards Eric Hassli and Ryan Johnson, will face a steady Fire centerback tandem of Arne Friedrich and Austin Berry.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.