by Adam Vaccaro
After missing 8 matches – 6 of which were due to a leave of absence that is now being referred to by some as a suspension – Shalrie Joseph returned to the Revolution on Saturday afternoon against Toronto FC.
And perhaps coincidentally, but probably not, New England entered yesterday’s match mired in an 8 game winless streak. Its last victory? A 4-1 thrashing of the same Toronto club at Gillette Stadium on April 10. Prior to yesterday, this was the only game Joseph had participated in this season.
So there was reasonable optimism amongst Revs fans as Joseph, sporting the Captain’s band and starting at a familiar central mid spot, led his team onto the field for the first time in a month and a half. As such, there was reasonable disappointment to match when the club walked off having fallen victim to a 1-0 defeat in Ontario and stretching the streak to 9 matches, 7 of which count in the MLS standings.
With Joseph in the lineup, New England was noticeably improved in the midfield. Excepting about twenty minutes worth of game time that can likely be blamed on slippery field conditions, the club’s possession rate, something deemed a major problem in the early season, was outstanding. Joseph stood out in the midfield as helping to stabilize the club and set up opportunities.
“[Having Joseph back] stabilized us a lot more,” Kevin Alston said. “It’s easy to go through the middle. We’re a little more organized through the middle. It just helps us out a lot.”
“He’s the gel of the team, he adds a lot, contributes a lot, and I think with him back things are looking up,” added Cory Gibbs.
The problem? The Revolution have looked improved in the midfield and as a possession club in each of their last 2 matches. They’ve now been shut out in 4 straight (including the US Open Cup qualifier against New York and Wednesday’s friendly against Portugal’s SL Benfica) and a finishing touch is starting to stand out as a major issue for the club, which has only scored 4 times since that last victory in April.
In the 82nd minute, Joseph nearly helped in that area as well.
The captain put his head on a corner kick from Marko Perovic and placed it just wide to the right of the goal. The goal would have been of the storybook variety, but it remained a fiction on this weekend.
To their credit, his teammates did not expect that Joseph would come right in and be the savior.
“It’s great to have Shalrie back,” Pat Phelan told Boston.com. “He’s rusty. He’s going to help us in the attack and just with leadership and all those things but we can’t expect him to lead us to victory in his first game back — he’s going to be rusty.”
The captain did manage to play the entire game. He said after the match that he would talk to the media next week.
Other than Joseph’s missed bid, the Revolution had little else in the way of near chances. Though they set up the play quite well, particularly in the second half, scoring opportunities were few and far between. Kheli Dube received a great long-range feed from Perovic in the first half but put the ball right into TFC goalie Stephan Frei‘s face. Earlier in the half, Sainey Nyassi nearly got a pass through down low that would have resulted in an open-net look, but Adrian Cann made a sliding play along the back line to heel the ball out of bounds. Any other open look New England found ended up sailing off frame.
Toronto scored in the 53rd minute, when Chad Barrett headed a corner in from Sam Cronin. It was his third goal of the season.
For the Revolution, there are positives to take out of tonight’s match. However, the club is getting a bit late into the season and is maintaining a winless streak that has stretched most of the campaign to keep looking for silver linings. The Revs need results. They will hope that Joseph’s return will bring them going forward.
For the first time since April 24-May 1, the Revolution will have a full week off before their next match. The club hosts the second place New York Red Bulls (5-4-0, 15 points) next Saturday at 8 PM.