Sitting on the bench after the New England Revolution's training session outside Pizza Hut Park on Thursday afternoon, midfielder Shalrie Joseph chuckled at the thought of being considered a candidate for league Most Valuable Player.
Teammate Taylor Twellman won that honor, but Joseph was deemed to be the team's MVP by New England's soccer media. So it only seems natural that Joseph should be included in any league MVP discussion.
Not necessarily, according to the Grenada-born, Brooklyn-grown defensive midfielder. He's content to let the scribes determine individual honors.
"I'm just going to leave that up to the critics and the guys who watch the games and make that judgment, but I think my play is going to speak for itself," Joseph said. "I've just got to come out every week and play hard, and whenever they nominate me, whenever I get praise, I just try to absorb it and just try to be a better player every day."
In fact, when the MVP topic came up Thursday, Joseph mentioned half of the Revolution squad as a potential MLS MVP. He had to be reminded to talk about himself.
"I think Taylor had a great year, and I think he deserved the MVP. But we've got guys on this team that could have got the MVP," Joseph said. "Matt Reis could have gotten nominated, and the year Clint [Dempsey] had early on this season, I think he could have gotten nominated. [Michael] Parkhurst had a great year, and people don't recognize what Joey [Franchino] and Jay [Heaps] have been doing in the back."
|"It's still a little overwhelming, getting to the final and being the player I am. But I still think I have a lot more in my career I can give and a lot more I've still got to accomplish."|
|-- Shalrie Joseph|
Earlier, it was Revolution head coach Steve Nicol's turn. Originally drafted by the Revs in 2002, Joseph made his debut with the club the following season, and Nicol admits he didn't know Joseph would make such strides over the course of three years.
"None of us could probably, hand on heart, turn around and say, 'Well this guy is going to be fantastic," he said. "Shalrie, in college, was a guy who could play anywhere from the start, which tells you that he has a good football brain and good knowledge to be able to play at the back, in the middle or up front.
"He has good feet, as well. He passes the ball well, and he reads the play well. And again, I think that our team, at this point in time, is full of good guys," Nicol added. "We really have a team who are good football players, who have a great work ethic, but who are generally good people. And when you put all of these things together, and Shalrie's a great example of that -- all the talent he has and the type of person he is -- then you get people like Shalrie Joseph and you get a team like we've had this year."
As Joseph goes on about his teammates, making it sound as if he just shows up and they do all of the heavy lifting, it becomes clear why Nicol cites Joseph as an example of the Revs having good people and good players.
Every question asked of Joseph eventually comes back around to the team.
"I think it's just what I bring to the table every day. I bring a hard working ethic to the table. I come to practice ready to work, ready to do whatever the coaches need, ready to do whatever the guys need me to do," he said when asked what about him would make Nicol refer to him as a good person. Then, true to form, Joseph shifted the focus to his teammates.
"This team is full of a lot of guys with character from the back four - from Jay to Matt Reis in goal to Joey, and now Parkhurst has turned into a great player in the back - so we have a lot of leadership on the team. That's why I think the team is doing so well this year."
Three seasons into his professional career, Joseph is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the league. And to the traditional defensive midfielder role he adds his ability to get forward and wreak havoc in the box with his 6-foot-3 frame.
According to 10-year veteran and Revolution teammate Steve Ralston, Joseph is crucial to the team's success.
"He's been tremendous for us, this year especially. I think he's gotten a lot better the last year and a half or two years," said. "He wins so many balls in the midfield for us. I don't think people realize how good he is with the ball as well. He sprays the ball all over the field, finds little passing lanes to go forward, gets the ball wide. He's big-time, he's a great player."
Joseph said that even he didn't expect to be where he is when he came out of St. John's University. But he tries to take his success in stride.
"It's still a little overwhelming, getting to the final and being the player I am. But I still think I have a lot more in my career I can give and a lot more I've still got to accomplish," he said. "The best way to get seen is by winning, and if we win on Sunday -- when we win on Sunday -- it would be the best thing for the team. Everybody will get seen and it will shine a light on the New England Revolution."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.