The Sounders FC has had no reservations in outwardly pursuing an MLS Cup title.
On Tuesday, they acquired eight-time MLS All-Star and four-time MLS Best XI midfielder Shalrie Joseph from Chivas USA, adding to their battery of midfielders while also picking up two second round picks in the MLS SuperDraft and the No. 3 spot in the Allocation Order.
A three-time MLS Cup finalist with the New England Revolution in 2005, 2006 and 2007, Joseph joins a midfield group that already includes Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Mario Martinez, Mauro Rosales, Steve Zakuani and Christian Tiffert, along with young options with MLS experience like Alex Caskey, Andy Rose, Lamar Neagle and Servando Carrasco.
“We’re happy to add a player of Shalrie’s experience to our team,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s a player that’s proven himself to be a leader in game situations and a player of his quality can only help us be a better team as we move into this season.”
Joseph had his best season in MLS in 2009 with the Revolution, when he had eight goals and eight assists to lead New England into the playoffs. He followed that with four goals and five assists in just 22 matches in 2010 and then had eight goals and one assist in a career-high 32 matches in 2011. Last year, he split time between New England and Chivas USA, also playing several different roles for two teams built around youth, and finished the season with a combined three goals and four assists in 30 matches.
While he is heralded for his versatility, Joseph has shown that he’s at his best in the middle of the park and that is where Schmid plans to use him.
“We see him as a midfielder. We see him as somebody who can play up front on occasion,” Schmid said. “He’s shown he can play center back on occasion, but that’s probably not my preferred spot for him. I would rather see him in midfield and maybe on the odd occasion up front.”
The 34-year-old from Grenada came to Seattle and trained with the Sounders for two days after being told by Chivas USA that he was not in their plans for the 2013 season. After those two days, Schmid indicated that Joseph would not continue with the team to Tucson for that portion of training camp, citing poor fitness. However, like reclamation projects Eddie Johnson, Marcus Hahnemann and Sammy Ochoa before him, Joseph will work closely with fitness coach Dave Tenney to get back into condition to contribute greatly for the Sounders once he joins the team in Tucson on Wednesday.
“At this stage, we just want Shalrie to get fit and fit in with the team. Shalrie is a player who really missed preseason camp because he was shut out by Chivas in terms of training with them,” Schmid said. “He needs to catch up, but I think that’s something that he is able to do and will accomplish with the help of Dave Tenney, our fitness coaches and the team as well. I know we’ll get him up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Joseph was a terror to the Sounders in 2009, netting all three goals that New England scored against Seattle as the Revs won both meetings. Since then, he has two assists in seven matches against Seattle with New England and Chivas USA, but has always been a player the club has respected.
He is also a player with many attributes that could prove valuable for the Sounders as they look to improve upon the success of their first four seasons.
“The things that we still liked and felt would be particularly useful for our team are his versatility. The second thing is that he provides a great deal of leadership and experience,” Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “He’s a very good organizer on the field and he’s a fantastic passer of the ball. He has very good vision, great on set pieces in the air, wins his duels in the middle of the park. We need to get him fit and get his legs under him a little bit, but we expect that he is going to contribute significantly.”