New England Soccer Today

Evolving Roles

A half time formation shift allowed Shalrie Joseph to venture forward and score the winning goal against Boston College on Wednesday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

Those familiar with seeing Shalrie Joseph pushing forward and becoming heavily involved in the attack may see less of it in 2012, depending on the New England Revolution captain’s midfield partner.

When the Revs operated in a 3-5-2 at their peak in 2005, Joseph partnered Clint Dempsey and Jose Cancela in the center of midfield. With two strong offensive partners, Joseph’s duties were mainly defensive.

Things gradually changed, first in the 3-5-2 as Jeff Larentowicz partnered Joseph, allowing the current Revs captain more freedom to venture forward. When the Revs switched to a 4-4-2, eliminating the attacking midfielder, the pressure was really on Joseph to aid the attack from the middle.

That role – along with a few stints at forward – has led to Joseph leading the team in scoring two of the last three years. Now, with Benny Feilhaber in the mix, if the Revs stick to a four-man midfield Joseph is likely to return to a more defensive role.

“With Benny, definitely 90% of my job is defensively,” said Joseph. “I’ve got to sit in, anchor the back four, keep them in front of me, and protect the back four… Sometimes Benny will sit in because he’s been working so hard offensively and I can allow myself to get forward a little bit, but my responsibility is more defensively when me and Benny are in the middle.”

While that may prove the best option for the Revs and seems to be new head coach Jay Heaps preferred choice at the moment, Heaps is still experiencing with other formations. In the team’s 2-1 preseason scrimmage victory over Boston College on Wednesday, Heaps brought on newcomer Clyde Simms for Fernando Cardenas at halftime to partner Joseph in the midfield, pushing Feilhaber up and using a 4-5-1 formation.

That switch allowed Joseph to push forward and become more involved in the attack in the second half. The move resulted in Joseph getting into the box to head in what would be the game-winning goal off a cross from rookie Kelyn Rowe in the 52nd minute.

“With the system changing and me in an advanced, attacking position it allows me to get forward and that’s where the goal comes from,” Joseph said after the match. “Being in an attacking position I can get into the box and wait for those crosses and Kelyn played a great ball and all I had to do was finish it and I did that.

“With Clyde [Simms], he does so much defensively,” added Joseph. “He covers me, he helps me defensively and he moves the ball well. He picks up great spots and he’s so good on the ball too, he allows us to keep possession in great areas, especially when we work so hard to try to win that ball back. When he gets it he just calms the game down and he brings that kind of composure you’re going to need in the midfield. He’s a great pick-up with getting him to join our team.”

Finding a formation that gives Joseph the freedom to push forward may prove valuable if the Heaps is unable to add a good target forward to the squad. While the Revs service from the wings is already showing improvement this preseason over last year, the team’s forwards often struggled get on the end of crosses against Boston College until Joseph made a run up field to score the game-winner.

Regardless of the formation choice, Joseph noted the new coaching staff is trying to change the team’s style of play to be more possession-oriented.

“I’ve definitely seen a lot of changes from the staff,” said Joseph. “They bring in a lot more ideas; they’ve been paying a lot more attention to little details and trying to get us to be a team that has more possession instead of a more direct style.”

But whatever part Joseph plays on the field under his new head coach, his leadership role as captain hasn’t changed.

“[I have to] just make sure everybody is ready to practice, make sure when a game comes around everybody is ready to go and ready to give their all,” said Joseph. “It hasn’t changed so much in the last couple of years; it has just been the parts around me that have changed a lot. My responsibility is just making sure everybody gets ready to play, making sure everybody is up for the game and works hard.

“Once you come in here and you represent the Revolution you give it your all, you give 1,000 percent every time you go out there,” he added. “That’s all you can expect from everybody. That’s what I do and that’s what I expect from everybody else.”

One Comment

  1. Jim

    February 20, 2012 at 8:35 am

    IMO Joseph should have been designated to a primarily defensive role three years ago, but lack of talent forced him to over extend himself.

    I’d love to see the Revs come out in a 4-2-3-1 because of their overabundance of midfielders, but I don’t know if Sene is skilled enough to be a stand alone striker.

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