There are very few scenarios in soccer that can be genuinely classified as “win/win.”
However, the Revolution and Shalrie Joseph were able to pull it off this weekend as the team and its captain agreed to a deal that not only keeps the eight-time All Star in Foxboro, but deservedly grants the Grenadian center half Designated Player status.
By re-signing Joseph, the club essentially acknowledged two key points. One is that Revolution could not realistically target the postseason in 2012 without their skipper in tow. Two is that it absolutely needed Joseph on board to help first-year manager (and former teammate) Jay Heaps re-instill a winning attitude in New England.
Joseph’s unquenchable thirst for success has been constant since he made his Revolution debut in 2003. Whether it’s guiding his teammates or taking the initiative on his own, Joseph has never made his desire to win a secret.
As a pure performer, he has been the stalwart of a midfield that’s remained in flux for the past two seasons. His ability to spring the attack, settle the game down, or dish out a hard challenge single-handedly makes the Revolution better in middle of the park. When called upon to push into the attacking third, he becomes a ballwinner inside the 18, and gives the team a formidable target on set pieces.
As a leader, Joseph is all business on the pitch, constantly offering guidance and instructions to teammates -- many of whom have gotten younger and less experienced in recent years. But his easy-going personality off the field has endeared him to coaches and players alike.
With the Revolution seeking a return to the postseason after a two-year absence, Joseph’s importance to the club that drafted him over nine years ago has never been greater than it is. Perhaps the greatest testament to Joseph’s impact on the team occurred over the summer.
On July 17, an offensively-challenged Philadelphia squad marched into Foxboro and easily dismantled, piece by piece, the Revolution, who was without Joseph due to a one-game suspension. The final score was 3-0 and New England’s effort -- or lack thereof -- that evening seemed to be attributable to the absence of their field general.
When Joseph returned three days later against D.C., few could mistake the dramatic turn from the Philadelphia game in terms of the team’s effort. With their gritty midfielder back, the Revolution secured their first -- and only -- road win of the season, a 1-0 shutout.
During his nine seasons in New England, Joseph has always been the complete package. He is a proven performer who has always welcomed the leadership responsibilities. On the pitch, he’s shouldered the load when necessary and points the finger at himself when the team falls short. Off the pitch, he has become a presence in the community, often lending his services to local charitable efforts.
For a team that’s rebuilding after two losing seasons, it’s clear that, by and large, the Revolution couldn’t afford to let their captain go. For Joseph, who has a become an active member of the New England soccer community, the deal allows him to remain in a place he’s called home for the past nine years.
Rare, indeed, is the situation that makes perfect sense for both sides.
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.