By Ryan Fleming
Forget their 2-1 loss at home to Colorado last Saturday. They played hard, deserved a point and got the bad end of a few calls. Only now, there is a real reason to worry.
It was announced yesterday at a New England Revolution press conference that it’s star and all-around best player, Shalrie Joseph, will take an indefinite leave from the club. The move was noted not to be soccer related. Joseph has missed four of the five games the Revs have played this year with a hip flexor injury. In his only appearance for New England, Joseph didn’t look himself, looking sluggish at times, and took a beating physically. Nonetheless, he was effective and lead the way in a 4-1 win over Toronto on April 10.
When a team is without their star player, they have to do something to somehow bridge the gap and that’s what the Revs will have to do. For New England (2-3-0, 6 pts.), who have been hit with injuries all year long, this could not have come at a worse time.
For a team that lacks creativity already in the midfield, the loss of Joseph could make Revs coach Steve Nicol do something drastic; like a formation change.
Typically, the Revs are a possession team who rely on their midfielders to shore up play, dish the ball out to a forward or a speedy winger to create offense. In its loss to Colorado, the New England midfielders were outplayed by Rapid’s (3-1-1, 10 pts.) Jeff Larentowicz and ex-Rev, Wells Thompson. Not that Pat Phelan did a poor job at trying to fill Joseph’s shoes, but lets face it, Phelan and Joseph are not the same and it was evident if you watched the game.
The Revs could move to a 4-3-3 formation, a more of an attacking formation, put Marco Perovic either as a forward on a wing or a midfield attacking role. New addition Khano Smith could also slip in on a wing alongside Chris Tierney in more of a midfield role. Nicol could also put out a 3-5-2 formation. By putting Perovic again in a midfield attacking role, he can again provide some support by putting Phelan or Joseph Niouky on either side.
If Nicol wanted to use a simple 4-4-2, he could put Niouky and Phelan as central midfielders and put Perovic on one wing with Tierney, Sainey Nyassi or Smith on the other. Nicol could also do nothing at all and continue with what he has been working with and hope that the future output is more.
Either way, Revs play eight games in May, which averages to about one game every 3.6 games. It doesn’t matter who they have during this stretch, the whole team will be feeling the affect. It begins with FC Dallas Saturday night.
Editor’s note: As reported by the Boston Globe’s Frank Dell’Apa, team sources have confirmed that Joseph has entered a substance abuse program.
Ryan Fleming is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.