New England Soccer Today

Joseph-less Jitters

It’s never easy for a team to play without its leader. That proved to be the case on Saturday as the New England Revolution were unable to compensate for the absence of Shalrie Joseph in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United.

Joseph, the Revs’ midfield general for the past decade, was forced to sit out the match after the MLS Disciplinary Committee issued a retroactive suspension on April 10 for a tackle he committed in the Revs 1-0 loss to FC Dallas on April 5.

“I think (not having Shalrie Joseph) hurt us,” head coach Jay Heaps said after the loss on Saturday. “Shalrie is our leader and in situations like today when we were a little bit wayward at times, it would’ve been nice to have that guy in there. Bring the troops together, bring the players in line. I mean it shows you what he brings out there.”

Though New England’s offense had plenty of opportunities, the home team was never really able to control the tempo of the game after taking an early lead through Jose Moreno. D.C. ended up taking advantage of the back-and-forth game to score two goals and grab the victory.

“It was a bright start, but that was about it until the second half,” said Heaps. “We just, the first half I was pretty disappointed in the way we performed. We just couldn’t get a rhythm, couldn’t get our game.”

That the Revs couldn’t get a rhythm should not come as too great of a surprise. New England often relies heavily on Joseph to calm the game down and dictate the pace of transition from defense to offense.

Without Joseph and with Benny Feilhaber unfit to start, the burden was placed on Clyde Simms and rookie Kelyn Rowe to try to settle the game in the center. Against a side with D.C.’s attacking quality, that proved a tough task.

“I think there’s times where we tried to go forward, forward, forward and a lot of times when Shalrie’s in the game, he’s the one that connects from one side to the other and we missed that a little bit tonight,” said Simms after the match. “I think that’s what would have tired them out a little bit and killed them. But we’ll learn from it and move on.”

Joseph’s composure in the midfield benefits the entire team and it was made obvious by the effect his absence had on Saturday. For just the second time this season the Revs passing accuracy (67%) fell below 70%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only other time the Revs failed to complete such a large number of their passes came in the Revs 1-0 win over the Portland Timber when Joseph was forced to play in the backline due to injuries.

“Obviously Shalrie being out creates a bit of a problem for us and we missed his ability to control the tempo of the game,” said Revs ‘keeper Matt Reis. “I think they came at us with a little bit of pressure and that kind of disrupted us a bit. We really could’ve used him putting his foot on the ball, but that being said we knew he wasn’t going to be there and we didn’t do a very adjusting.”

While barring an injury, the Revs should have Joseph back when they return to action on April 28 with a trip to face the New York Red Bulls, the team now has a two week break between games to learn from the mistakes made on Saturday. With a few players carrying minor knocks, others like Benny Feilhaber just making their returns from injuries and still some like Bjorn Runstrom just joining the team, those two weeks come at a key time.

“There have been quite a few guys they have got small injuries and some other guys that are starting to come back like myself,” said Feilhaber. “We have two weeks getting fitness back and really being ready for a big game against New York is really important for us. It comes at the right time.”

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