FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Midfielder Shalrie Joseph did it all for the New England Revolution in 2009.
Joseph, one of league's preeminent defensive midfielders, transformed his game last campaign to add more of an attacking component. His career-high of eight goals and eight assists displayed the results of Joseph's attacking forays in a two-way midfield role and as a makeshift target forward.
After a year in which he finished third in league MVP voting and carried his team offensively for much of the season, Joseph probably wasn't looking to add to his responsibilities heading into 2010. He might have no choice but to further stamp his leadership credentials on the side after the Revolution's veteran core decomposed around him during the offseason.
"I can see that," Joseph said. "We've lost Rally (Steve Ralston), we've lost Jay (Heaps) and we've lost a couple of the younger guys. A lot of the fingers are going to be pointed to me. I'm going to have to step into that role, be more vocal and be more of a leader."
Leaders and veterans are few and far between on a New England side in the throes of an evolution. Ralston, the incumbent captain, and Heaps, the emotional leader, have departed and retired, respectively. Jeff Larentowicz, Joseph's trusted partner in the center of the park and the natural heir to a leadership role, joined Colorado as part of a four-player deal. In addition to the steady stream of departures, experienced campaigners Matt Reis and Taylor Twellman will miss the start of the campaign through injury.
"It's frustrating losing these guys, but we have to look at this as a business," Joseph said. "It's a decision the team made to try and move in another direction. We're going to try to move forward. I think my role is just keeping the team together and making sure everything runs smoothly."
Joseph currently represents the last remaining link to the core that made four MLS Cup appearances in six seasons. In order to build a new squad capable of reaching similar heights, Revolution boss Steve Nicol imported experienced Colorado duo Preston Burpo and Cory Gibbs to provide defensive strength and veteran nous.
"Both of them are fantastic in the locker room," Nicol said. "Obviously, we lose Ralston, Heaps and Jeff and we're losing not just players, but good people. It's on and off the field for both of them."
Although the Revolution brought Burpo and Gibbs into the fold to plug specific holes at goalkeeper and left back, Gibbs said he understands that this young group -- 21-year-old Gambian international midfielders Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi represent the most senior holdovers after Joseph with their three years in New England -- requires more than just an honest shift from its two new veterans.
"You have to respect Shalrie, Taylor and Reisy because they've led this team," Gibbs said. "We're just trying to follow their lead and add a bit with it. We want to build this team to where the chemistry can be."
The developing squad will force some of the younger players to take on responsibility as well. Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes and Pat Phelan are just three of the projected starters who will need to handle the additional burden imposed by the departures of several veterans.
"Guys like myself who have been here for two or three years are almost veterans," Phelan said. "It's important for us to step up and try and help the team gel as quickly as possible."
Even if the younger players continue to grow and assume prominent roles on and off the field, Joseph knows that he may have to replicate his influential performances from last season in order for the Revolution to return to the playoffs for a ninth consecutive year.
"Sometimes, I'll have to carry the team if I need to," Joseph said. "I look forward to that challenge. Last year, I had a great year and I feel like I still haven't peaked yet. I think I can still push myself to be a better player and a better person and help this team win a lot more games."
The alternative -- a rebuilding year where New England fails to challenge for honors -- isn't something the 31-year-old Joseph wants to contemplate after seven years of success.
"It's going to be one of those years where we're going to be developing, but I'm not looking for a development year," Joseph said. "I'm old and I just want to win a championship in this league before I retire. It's going to be an interesting preseason and an interesting year for us."