TUKWILA, Wash. — Few players in MLS history can match the career accomplishments of Shalrie Joseph.The 10-year veteran has been named MLS Best XI four times, been an All-Star seven times and was an instrumental part in leading the New England Revolution to three straight MLS Cup finals.
The glaring omission from his résumé is winning an MLS Cup, and that is why he was willing to restructure his contract recently, a move that ultimately allowed the Seattle Sounders to sign Clint Dempsey.
“I didn’t know it was for him specifically but I’m glad it worked out,” Joseph said, clearly in good spirits ahead of Saturday's trip to Toronto FC (7 pm ET; MLS Live). “In the end, it’s a team game and for me it’s all about trying to win a championship. That’s why I’m here and whoever they wanted to bring in, I’m glad it worked out perfectly.
“To have him is going to make us into a better team. Even though we are playing well as a team right now, he’s going to push us to be better.”
Even if Joseph didn’t know who was going to fill his vacated Designated Player spot, it’s safe to say he was pleased to find out it was Dempsey. The two were teammates from 2004-06, making the MLS Cup finals in two of those years.
Although Dempsey was a relatively unknown rookie when they first started playing together, Joseph said the makings of a great player were evident from the beginning.
“Even from practice Day 1, he came in and he just worked,” Joseph recalled. “He didn’t show he was a rookie, he knew he belonged in this league and he knew the sky was the limit for him and kept pushing himself, worked hard.
“He got into a couple of scuffles [including an infamous one in 2006 that left team captain Joey Franchino with a black eye] with the senior guys. It just shows how confident he is and he doesn’t take nothing from nobody," said Joseph. "That’s the kind of attitude he had from Day 1. He came in and worked hard. We don’t expect anything less when he comes to practice.”
Aside from being reunited with an old teammate -- who also happens to be arguably the greatest American goal-scorer -- Joseph’s mood has been buoyed by a return to health.
The defensive midfielder has been battling a calf injury throughout the season, but was a full participant in training this week and once again feels capable of competing for playing time.
“It’s all smiles, not just for me,” Joseph said. “We have such great talent here. We can come in with such a complete game, it’s going to be a challenge everyday to get into that 11. That’s a problem for the Sigi and the coaching staff. It’s a great problem. It’s all about trying to get that next win, trying to get to the playoffs and and trying to get that championship.”