Sounders FC is 16 matches into the 2013 season and on Saturday got the first really good look at what Shalrie Joseph can provide for their team in the middle of midfield.
They finished the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC with seven shots on goal, a total they have exceeded only once this season, and completed 82.2-percent of their passes. While they were knocking on the door throughout the match, they finished in a 2-0 defeat. However, Joseph’s contribution to the midfield play and scoring chances drew praise from his teammates after the match.
“It was the best game of the year, for sure, from him. He was phenomenal tonight,” said midfielder Brad Evans, who manned the right wing. “Winning headers. Winning tackles. Spraying the ball around. Talking. Getting stuck in. It was a great game for him.”
The statistics confirm the assertions of Evans, too.
Joseph converted 87.7-percent of his game-high 65 passes, including two “key passes” – or, would-be assists that were not converted. Defensively, he gained possession five times, had two interceptions and made a team-high three tackles, teaming well with Servando Carrasco, who gained possession 11 times for Seattle.
It was as close to the vintage Shalrie Joseph that was an eight-time MLS All-Star and four-time MLS Best XI midfielder that Sounders FC has seen, getting closer to that form each day.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve had some knocks here and there. It’s midseason and my body is starting to feel good,” Joseph said. “Servando had a good thing going tonight and he was giving me the ball in good spots and I was just trying to get forward and get everybody involved and keep possession when we need to.”
Joseph, 35, has 39 goals and 35 assists in 280 career MLS appearances and was a finalist for the 2009 MLS MVP award when he notched eight goals and eight assists for the New England Revolution.
When he plays like he did on Saturday night, it changes the whole makeup of the game for the attacking players.
“He finds passes that not a lot of people see so you can make more difficult runs because he’ll find you with the ball. He can squeeze the ball into a tight space,” Evans said. “He provides a little maturity on the field and the passes he picks are usually the right choice. If that continues, and I know that it will, he’s going to be an integral part for the team.”
Soon, Seattle Head Coach Sigi Schmid will have his full midfield available when Osvaldo Alonso returns from injury, which could be as soon as this week when Sounders FC meets the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday. At that point, he will have 2012 MLS Best XI midfielder Alonso ready to pair with either Joseph or Carrasco, who has started 10 straight matches, seeing Seattle go 6-3-1 in that stretch.
“I felt good. All the guys were getting me the ball in good attacking spots,” Joseph said. “Hopefully we can keep playing like we did tonight, but get results at the end of the day.”