TUKWILA, Wash. – Nearly halfway through Shalrie Joseph’s first season with the Seattle Sounders, the jury is still out as to how successful the acquisition has been.
The 35-year-old can still spray the ball around the field as well as anyone, but he’s only started four of 16 matches and has looked to be a defensive liability at times.
There are signs that he’s starting to find his footing, though, with the most recent examples coming in a pair of games last week. It was Joseph’s dogged pursuit of a loose ball that set up Obafemi Martins’ second goal in last Wednesday's 2-0 win over D.C. United and his passing that helped set up several good scoring chances in a 2-0 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
“I thought Shalrie’s stint off the bench against D.C. was good,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He followed that up with a good game in Vancouver.
“His energy level was up. When his energy level is up he sees the ball more and we all know he can do good things when he’s on the ball. As long as he brings that energy, he gets on the ball and he helps our team.”
Joseph has yet to pick up an assist this season, but that would seem to be just a matter of time if he continues to pass the ball the way did against the Whitecaps. The midfielder completed 59 of 66 passes, including a pair of “key passes” that set up one-on-one goal-scoring opportunities off through balls.
“He’s able to thread balls through where a lot of people don’t see it,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. “Maybe a ball I play wide, he tries to play through to Eddie [Johnson] and we get a chance out of it. That’s the kind of player he’s always been. He’s linking the defense to the attack. Credit to him, he’s getting back on his feet and he’s fit, he looked tremendous in the game. If he keeps that up and we get chances like that, we’re going to score.”
It wasn’t just the chances that Joseph had a direct hand in creating. His ability to help facilitate quick passing throughout the midfield helped the Sounders hold 56 percent of possession and aided in their ability to generate a season-high 16 shots against Vancouver. They just didn't hit the net on any of them.
“I think that’s just how I am as a player,” Joseph said. “I just try to get on the ball as quickly as I can, look forward and try to find Oba, Eddie, Lamar [Neagle], these guys that are very creative on the ball and just try to get them the ball early and often. I think they are going to create good things for the team. That’s what I was trying to do on Saturday, just make sure I get them the ball in good positions.”