By Ryan Fleming
Shalrie Joseph isn’t the only one looking for a fresh start. He won’t be the only one getting it, either.
Amidst the United States Men’s National Team’s 2010 World Cup birth, its high hopes immediately dropped a notch as the news of Charlie Davies’s car accident came to fruition. Since then, Davies has been on the long road to recovery – going through rehabilitation and earning a place with his club team, French-side Sochaux.
The most important thing is that Davies is now healthy, with just the lingering scars as painful reminders of the past. Joseph, though, doesn’t have the physical marks to provide the flashbacks, but the mental memories can be just as shaking.
“Last year was a frustrating year personally in terms of my career. It was definitely one of my low points in the MLS, having to deal with the drug situation,” Joseph said in a teleconference last week. “And now I feel like I’m finally healthy.”
Joseph missed five games last year after he tested positive for a banned substance, entering the league’s substance abuse program. New England missed its leader and best player during the absence. When he came back, the Revs played better, though the assimilation took some time. As the season waned on, the Revs were the recipients of the Old Joseph – the dominant midfielder, winning tackles and providing outlets for attacking teammates.
For Revolution manager Steve Nicol, he can only hope that his best player, and his captain is as healthy as he states. Last year was a season to forget for Joseph, Nicol, and the rest of the Revs, but someone, somewhere said, “you learn from your mistakes.”
“Personally, I want to set some goals to be one of the best players in this league, if not the best, and to push this team to the top and get back to that Championship level that this team is capable of every year,” Joseph said.
That might be a bit lofty of a goal in terms of pushing the team back up to the Championship level, but if a player on the Revs roster can do it, it’s Joseph. Time and time again the Grenadian international has proved to be the general leading his army on the field; darting passes around him, sending his players forward, continuously attacking.
Before the accident Davies was known as one of those attacking players, just for another team – using his speed and work ethic to outmaneuver defenders. Most recently, the Manchester, New Hampshire native signed a one-year loan deal with DC United. Much like Joseph, this season is important because it provides him with another chance. Not seeing a moment of first team play, besides getting a spot on the roster for a game against Bordeaux on Dec. 19, the forward was in desperate need of getting a spot on the starting XI. Just the other day, on Feb. 16, the Davies-to-United deal was confirmed, providing Davies a chance to get his form back, play some soccer and more importantly get an opportunity to show Sochaux, USMNT coach Bob Bradley and the rest of the emotionally-attached Yanks supporters that the hard work has paid off.
“I am very thankful and grateful to D.C. United for giving me this chance to come here and prove myself again to the American public and to the world that I am back,” Davies said to The Washington Post.
There are similarities and differences between the two player scenarios. One was a victim of a horrible accident, putting his career on hold, while the other made a self-induced mistake, hurting himself, his family and teammates. Both are on the right track, improving everyday in attempts to getting back to where they were. Similarly they have another chance, I know I’ll be watching.
Editor’s Note: The New England Revolution sent Shalrie Joseph home yesterday along with defender Kevin Alston for disciplinary reasons. The team was training in Florida until Thursday. Alston and Joseph will be allowed the rejoin the team when it returns to Foxborough, Mass.
Ryan Fleming can be reached email@example.com.