Foxboro, MA- the New England Revolution isn’t the same team when Shalrie Joseph isn’t on the field. Since the departure of key players, the Revolution have staked too much in their reliance of Joseph. That overreliance is now taking its toll on Joseph, 33, who might sign elsewhere once his contract with the Revolution expires at the end of this year.
Joseph addressed the media last night following the Revolution’s fifteenth loss of the season, a 2-1 decision to the San Jose Earthquakes at Gillette Stadium.
“This is a championship town and if we can’t be one of those teams people talk about, there’s no point for me to be here. I don’t want to be here. I’m the team leader, I’m the team captain, and it’s frustrating. People look upon me and I like that leadership role. I need to get the team into better shape and creating more chances, just being overall a better team.’’
Shalrie Joseph has played through injuries in the past in order to keep contributing to the team. The very few times Joseph has been out of the starting lineup has been due to suspension. And on the rare occasion that Joseph doesn’t play, the Revolution’s possession game is chaotic and the team struggles to create scoring chances.
And this is because Joseph, who has been with the Revolution since 2003, has undergone a role change. Until recently, Joseph was merely another piece of the formula; the Revolution had a nucleus of players they could rely on which led them to three consecutive Cup finals, a Superliga title, and a U.S. Open Cup title. But recently, that nucleus has dissolved through retirements and player movement and Joseph has been forced multitask.
Joseph arguably runs more throughout the game than any other player. He frequently makes fifty yard runs to help out the forwards, midfielders, and defenders. As a forward, he has led the team with eight goals this season. In the middle, he has been the team’s engine alongside Benny Feilhaber. And in defense, he is a presence, mostly because of his height and pace. But Joseph knows that the reason he is forced to take on so many roles is caused by the team’s youth and inexperience.
“We’ve got a lot of immaturity, we’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys and at the end of the day we’re just not good enough to be one of those teams that people talk about,” said Joseph. “We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror, make the changes necessary in the offseason and come back and turn things around.”
“My first couple years here, we got to the finals so many times, and it was sweet,’’ Joseph said. “It was hard work, we definitely got rewarded.”
In the past, offseason additions paid off smoothly for the Revolution. Coach Steve Nicol grabbed many promising players like Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey, Pat Noonan, Jeff Larentowicz, and Michael Parkhurst from the draft. He then supplemented the team with foreign prowess like Avery John and Jose Cancela. That core group of players had an identity and each member of the team had a role. Joseph was merely another piece of the puzzle. And until the Revolution begins replacing the talent that has left them since their last MLS Cup run in 2007, Joseph won’t be able to play his proper role.
“Hopefully, next year, we bring in a good bit of personnel,’’ Joseph said. “Everybody needs to get on board and start working hard and start realizing this is something we desperately need.”
Other MLS teams have been successful by mixing foreign experience with domestic talent. But the Revolution haven’t followed this model, relying too much on younger players. And while teams with noted foreigners like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Alvaro Fernandez experience success both on the field and in filling up their stadiums, the Revolution are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and have one of the worst attendances in the league.
“Right now we’re just not that team people want to talk about, people want to watch,’’ Joseph said. “Fans don’t come out and support, which is our fault. We don’t produce enough players out there that are exciting, that are good enough for them to come out and support.”
Last night, the Revolution played the Earthquakes in front of 9,111 fans. It was unusual to have such a low turnout given that the weather had cooperated and that, aside from the Bruins, the Revolution were the only Boston-based sports team playing a game. Even the Fort, the Revolution’s hard-core, stand-alone and cheer zone, was noticeably depleted.
“You can hear a pin drop [last] night and it’s frustrating playing in front of a dead stadium, playing in front of people not supporting you,” finished Joseph. “It takes a toll, it’s definitely frustrating being out there, another loss at home. I mean, what can I say? It’s just frustrating being a part of this right now.’’
“This franchise deserves better, these fans deserve better than what we give them [last] night. We’ve given them something this season that’s lackluster and they don’t deserve that.’’