FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Conducting business as usual is a little bit harder when Shalrie Joseph is returning to Gillette Stadium for the first time since leaving the club he represented for more than nine years.
The potential difficulty of coping with this sticky situation didn't stop New England from trying mightily to push thoughts of Joseph to one side prior to Wednesday night's match against Chivas USA (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“I think it'll be more strange for the fans and for the club than for us players,” Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy told MLSsoccer.com. “We've played against each other in training every day, every other day.
Preview: Revolution vs. Chivas USA
"Although it's going to be sad to see Shalrie in a different colored jersey, change is typically a good thing," continued Guy. "He's back. It's not like he's never coming back. He's back. I think his face is on the ticket. I think, for him, it'll be more of an exciting moment than a sad moment. Hopefully, we can affect that moment a little bit by getting a win. Overall, I think it'll be fine for all of us.”
Joseph's return presents a significant distraction at a time when the Revs can ill afford to divert their attention from picking up results. They have collected one point in their last eight matches and have not garnered a single point in their past five attempts. In fact, they have been stuck at 23 points ever since Joseph departed for Southern California on Aug. 1.
This particular sideshow pops up at the wrong time for a team trying to cure their own concerns. The squad is focusing on maintaining concentration for a full 90 minutes and avoiding some of the crippling lapses that have led to the poor run of form.
It is a problem Revolution coach Jay Heaps (above) grasped readily on Tuesday as he talked about the importance of focusing on the match itself, not the distractions associated with Joseph's return.
Heaps called on his players – a group that won't include the injured Sainey Nyassi (right adductor strain) and the recently acquired Juan Toja (awaiting P1 work visa) – to eschew those potential talking points and secure their first victory since July 8.
“He's on the other team,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “We have our 26 guys. We have to focus every game. If we had the luxury to worry about other players right now, we would be in a much better situation, but we don't. We have to worry about what we're going to do on the field.”