FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Down 3-0 just 21 minutes into the match, Shalrie Joseph’s first return trip to New England with Chivas USA on Wednesday night looked headed for disappointment. But the talismanic midfielder wasn’t ready to give up.
Just like he’d done so many times before at Gillette Stadium for the Revolution, Joseph carried his new team, Chivas USA, on his back, scoring two goals and leading the Los Angeles-based club to a 3-3 comeback draw. In doing so, Joseph assured his former club remained winless since trading away their captain on August 1.
“It feels good to score two goals; it doesn’t matter what team. It’s bittersweet that it’s against my old team, and it feels good,” said Joseph. “But it’s more than about me right now. It’s about a team trying to make a playoff run. That’s what we’ve got to look forward to.”
Joseph’s two goals made sure it was a night to remember for the visitors. His 23rd minute header gave Chivas a lifeline just two minutes after the Revolution have extended their lead to 3-0, and then his first half stoppage time left footed blast from outside the box pulled the Goats within one going into the break. The visitors would grab the equalizer two minutes into the second half.
“I don’t think I’ve seen Shalrie hit a ball with his left foot like that in ten years,” said Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis, who along with Joseph joined the club in 2003.
“Eventually (playing against Joseph) is going to happen, it is strange that it happened so soon,” Reis added. “For us it was just another game, he was on the other team. It wasn’t that big of a deal for us. For us it was about trying to get a result and to get a little momentum going forward.”
While it was a strange feeling for the Revolution to play against their former captain, Chivas USA felt extra motivation to get a result for what they knew was a big game for their teammate.
“We definitely wanted to get the result for [Joseph],” said Chivas USA defender James Riley, who started his career with the Revolution in 2005 and stayed with the club through 2007, going to MLS Cup with the team all three years. “I was kidding with Matt Reis after the game, I think the only people left from the golden era when I was here from ’05 to ’07 was him and Jay Heaps as a coach now. There has been a lot of turnover and things of that sort. It’s always good to come back.”
When the Revolution sent their captain packing early this month, Chivas USA were happy recipients as they try to turn around a struggling team. The results on Wednesday certainly reaffirmed that excitement.
“Two goals, certainly the first one conjured up out of nothing and then the second one was great presence and presence of mind; it was a huge lift for us obviously,” said Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser of Joseph.
“He just brings grit and desire,” said Riley. “He’s a boss in the middle. He wants the ball in any situation and expects guys to be the same and feed off him. Obviously he brings an inspiration on the pitch and backs that up with his play and his presence. It’s great to have him.”
Wednesday’s return was was an unusual night all around at Gillette Stadium with Joseph appearing for an opposing team for the first time, the fans stood and cheered for both of Joseph’s goals. The respect for the former captain was clear, even as his efforts put the Revolution on the back foot.
“It felt great,” said Joseph. “They know the hard work I put in, they know the type of person I am and for them to show that kind of respect – it’s mutual on both sides. That felt great and I look forward to seeing them in the winter and next season again.”
Joseph responded in kind by not celebrating either of his two strikes.
“You can’t celebrate against somebody who gave you such a great opportunity,” said Joseph. “You represent the organization and as I said, it’s been top-notch and it’s been class when I’ve been here with Steve Nicol or Jay Heaps or whoever. It’s been top-notch and there’s class on both sides. I didn’t want to celebrate or disrespect anybody, but it’s all about the team, with me not showing disrespect to anything like that.”
But while Joseph’s career now likely won’t see him retire as a Revolution player, there are no hard feelings between the sides.
“He’s always going to be a Rev, it’s just a little bit of time when he’s not,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “But in terms of what he did tonight, I never questioned that guy.”
Though the decision to trade Joseph may have been hard for all involved, Riley, who is on his third team since departing the Revolution and knows a bit about the business aspect of soccer from his own experiences, offered some final perspective.
“I was surprised [to hear Joseph was coming to Chivas],” said Riley “I had heard some rumors. When it happened I thought it was great. It was definitely exactly what we needed. To find out that it benefited both sides was great. He wanted a new change and a new start. No better place to do it than in Los Angeles, Southern California, on the beach, at a great facility at the Home Depot Center. And obviously it benefited the Revs because they cleared some cap space and got a young good player in Blair Gavin and do some things that way. It was a win-win for both sides and we move on.”