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Former St. John’s soccer stars meet in MLS game

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Neither Shalrie Joseph nor Chris Wingert had pleasant memories of playing at Columbus Crew Stadium while at college, so it’s no surprise that their first Major League Soccer game against each other there isn’t going to make the personal highlight reel for the former St. John’s teammates.

The game, played Saturday night, ended in a frustrating 1-1 tie for Joseph’s New England Revolution and Wingert’s Columbus Crew.

But at least it was a chance for the two former teammates to catch up with each other.

“Both teams felt they could have come away with a victory,” Joseph said. “We should have been 3-1, 4-1 up in the first half and they had one or two opportunities in the first half. Our Achilles heel right now is finishing.”

Joseph is in his second year in MLS and has been a regular fixture in the Revolution’s starting lineup from Day One.

After injuring himself while playing for the Grenada National Team in World Cup qualifiers against the United States, Joseph returned ahead of schedule from a hip flexor and quad injury to play against Chicago July 14 and the Crew Saturday.

“It was hard, especially watching my team struggle,” Joseph said of sitting on the bench injured. “I came back quicker than anyone expected and I’m still not in top condition, but it’s good to be back again.”

Wingert, on the other hand, has just recently cracked the starting lineup and the rookie has seen extended playing time since a combined 66 minutes in the first three months of his MLS career.

Wingert, who won the Hermann Award last year as college soccer’s top player, has also had to make a slight adjustment on the field. Primarily used as a defender throughout college and on the United States Under-23 National Team that failed to qualify for the Olympics, Wingert has been used more on the right side of midfield.

“I like it, in a 3-5-2 (formation) there’s a lot of running and you have to be fit,” Wingert said. “If I had my choice I’d rather play in the midfield than on defense because you have more of an impact on the game, but I just want to be in the position to be on the field.”

While Joseph started in his regular defensive midfield role Saturday, Wingert came off the bench in the 28th minute to replace Eric Denton, who was severely outplayed down the wing by Richie Baker.

“If we had seven subs,” Columbus Crew coach Greg Andrulis said, “I think we would have made them in the first half.”

But three minutes after Wingert entered the game, the Revolution scored when Baker played Clint Dempsey into the box and after chesting the ball down, the rookie scored his team-best sixth goal.

In the 38th minute Wingert played a nice ball into the box to Edson Buddle, who chested it, turned toward goal and took a shot from 10 yards out that was blocked by Steve Ralston.

Despite being dominated throughout much of the first half, Columbus tied the game in the 45th minute when Kyle Martino received Jeff Cunningham’s through ball in the left side of the box and beat keeper Matt Reis with a slow rolling shot from 6 yards out.

In the 49th minute Wingert nearly set up another goal when his cross into the box was deflected by Avery John and it was picked up by Frankie Hejduk, but his shot was saved by Reis and Cunningham knocked the rebound through the goal mouth.

“We could have played a bit cleaner, especially in the first half,” Wingert said. “But I was able to whip some dangerous crosses in and put them in some good spots. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put them away.”

Joining Joseph and Wingert as former St. John’s players in the MLS is Dan Popik, the backup goalkeeper for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Popik has played sparingly since being signed by Los Angeles before last season, but he did perform well at Giants Stadium on June 19, when he replaced an injured Kevin Hartman at halftime of a 2-1 loss to the MetroStars.

Jeff Matteo, who played with the Columbus Crew last year after being traded from the MetroStars, is having a stellar season with the Minnesota Thunder of the A-League.

Twice named to the A-League team of the week, the center midfielder from Stormville, N.Y. has started all 16 games for the Thunder and has two goals and two assists, including an assist on Dustin Branan’s 21st-minute goal in a 3-0 win over the Calgary Mustangs last Thursday.

The Thunder is 9-4-3 and in second place in the Western Conference.

Also playing in his first year in the A-League is Tim O’Neill, who helped lead the Red Storm to the NCAA national championship game last year. The midfielder from Philadelphia has started 16 of 18 games for the Syracuse Salty Dogs and was named to the A-League team of the week once. He has one assist for Syracuse, which is 8-7-3 and in fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Danny Parkin is playing in his fifth — and likely last — season with the Westchester Flames of the Pro Soccer League.

After spending the off-season rehabilitating from knee surgery, Parkin has been a regular fixture in the Flames defense and has helped lead Westchester to a 7-6-2 record and second place in the Northern Division.

Rich Bradley also plays in the Pro Soccer League, for Westchester rival Long Island. After playing for the now defunct New York Freedoms last season, Bradley has been one of the most consistent defensive players for first-year Rough Riders coach Ronan Wiseman.

Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Bradley has contributed to the Rough Riders’ resurgence in the second half of the season. Long Island is 6-8-1 and two points behind second-place Harrisburg City in the Atlantic Division.

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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