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Joseph to the rescue for New England

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A little more than two weeks after breaking his nose in a scrimmage against the University of Connecticut, former St. John’s standout Shalrie Joseph was back on the field for the New England Revolution in a homecoming of sorts at...

By Dylan Butler

Who was that masked man?

A little more than two weeks after breaking his nose in a scrimmage against the University of Connecticut, former St. John’s standout Shalrie Joseph was back on the field for the New England Revolution in a homecoming of sorts at Giants Stadium.

Donning a protective white mask — which he promptly tossed aside less than 20 minutes into the game — the native of Grenada was heroic for the Revolution in a 1-1 tie with the MetroStars in front of 8,129 Sunday.

“It was uncomfortable. I didn’t get enough time to practice with it,” Joseph said of the mask, which arrived on Friday. “I only had the later part of practice on Friday. It was uncomfortable for me so I decided to take a risk.”

He moved back from his normal starting position of center midfielder and helped shore up a Revolution defense that allowed six goals in two losses and is depleted by injury.

With former Maspeth resident Carlos Llamosa out for the season with a sprained left knee and Rusty Pierce (right quadriceps contusion) and Daouda Kante (right knee sprain) unavailable, Joseph moved back to central defense alongside Brian Kamler.

“He’s a good player, he reads the game well, he passes the ball well and he really just stepped in and did in the back what he does in the middle,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said.

Despite the risk of rebreaking his nose, Joseph was tenacious in the back against the MetroStars. The transplanted Brooklynite blocked shots, won headers and played physical for the Revs, who earned their first point of the young MLS season.

After nearly giving up a penalty kick when Sergio Galvan Rey’s cross clearly caromed off Joseph’s arm, he was given a yellow card in the 31st minute for a late slide tackle on MetroStars defender Craig Ziadie.

“I think he did a great job,” Revs keeper Adin Brown said of Joseph. “He only worked on it for basically a week and we got a result out of it, so you can’t complain about that.”

Joseph is no stranger, though, to playing central defense. He was drafted by the Revs in 2002 as a central defender. He played that position for much of his senior year at St. John’s and even played in the back for one game last year.

But that result was much different.

“I played it once last year in Chicago,” Joseph said. “And it wasn’t a good performance at all.”

Joseph has started all but one game since he arrived in New England after playing for the now-defunct New York Freedoms in the Pro-Select League.

At 6-foot-3, 180-pounds, Joseph is an intimidating force both in the air and on the ground, but he is also skillful enough to consistently make the smart, careful passes around the field.

After a spectacular rookie season, which saw Joseph emerge as one of the bright young stars in the MLS, he returns for Year 2 in the league, anxious to prove last year wasn’t a fluke. And he’s anxious to renegotiate his contract.

Joseph is in the second year of a four-year contract that pays him $25,200 per season, the league minimum.

“(The renegotiation) isn’t going as well as possible but right now the season started,” Joseph said. “I have to put that behind me and move forward every day and every game.”

Joseph has also played for his native Grenada, starting more than 10 games, and will be on the field in Columbus, Ohio June 13 when Grenada takes on the United States in a World Cup qualifier.

“It’s definitely going to be a special thing. It’s going to be a big opportunity for me, my teammates and the country,” Joseph said. “It’s the biggest game in the country’s history and to be playing against the U.S. is something you look forward to as a soccer player.”

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

Updated 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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