Joseph suspension forces Revs to shuffle midfield

Absence of club captain increases roles of others against D.C. United

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tuesday afternoon’s announcement that Shalrie Joseph will be suspended for this weekend’s meeting with D.C. United caught the New England Revolution captain by surprise.

Joseph was aware that Major League Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee was reviewing his tackle on FC Dallas midfielder Ricardo Villar – a play which occurred in the 62nd minute of last Thursday night’s 1-0 loss at FC Dallas Stadium and earned Joseph a yellow card – but he wasn’t expecting any additional punishment.

“I didn’t even think twice about it,” Joseph said. “Then to see it yesterday when I came into practice and Jay (Heaps) told me about it, it was just frustrating. I felt a hole in my chest knowing that I’m not that kind of player. I’m not a dirty player. I don’t try to hurt anybody or try to go after anybody in this league.”

Villar was injured on the play and was replaced by defender Bobby Warshaw shortly after the tackle. Tuesday’s injury report listed Villar as “out” with a right foot injury and the fact that the player was injured on the play likely factored into the decision to hand Joseph a suspension.

Chris (Tierney) played me a ball and I had a heavy, bad, terrible touch and it got me in trouble,” Joseph said of the play in question. “I didn’t notice [Villar] on the other side of me and once I saw the ball was there, I was just trying to lunge for the ball to get it away from him. It was just late, but it wasn’t anything from behind, anything intentional or anything malicious at all.”

“For me, it was Shalrie with a clumsy kind of reach-for-the-ball tackle, but I didn’t’ think it was malicious and I didn’t think it was from behind,” Heaps agreed. “I think unfortunately the situation was that Villar did get injured and he had to leave the game and there’s no mistake that carries weight with the Disciplinary Committee.”

While the Revs may not agree with the suspension, they’re forced to move forward in their preparations for Saturday afternoon’s meeting with D.C. United knowing they’ll be without their captain. Joseph has been a mainstay in New England’s lineup this season and until this point was one of just two players – along with goalkeeper Matt Reis – to play every minute of the Revolution’s first five games.

But the Revs have compensated for Joseph’s absence in central midfield as recently as three weeks ago when the 33-year-old showed his versatility by covering in central defense for the 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers. In that match, rookie Kelyn Rowe partnered Clyde Simms in central midfield and the pair was flanked by wingers Ryan Guy and Lee Nguyen.

“We took a couple hours to deal with [the suspension], and now you move on,” said Heaps. “You make the next step and you deal with it. That’s what we’re doing. We’re making sure that we’re ready for Saturday and we’re going to have the best team on the field that we can.”

“My responsibility is going to be a lot more for Saturday,” said Simms, who expects to feature against his former club despite dealing with a bit of tightness in his right calf. “But we’ve had a game or two where [Shalrie] wasn’t in there, so I think we’ll be alright.”

Joseph won’t be in uniform when the Revs take the field to battle United this weekend, but the captain will train throughout the week and he plans to do all he can to help his side prepare for a critical match against an Eastern Conference rival.

“It’s something I’ve just got to put behind me and be ready for this weekend,” Joseph said. “Right now I’ve just got to try to stay focused and try to help the team in ways I can, whether it be pushing the guys, encouraging the guys this weekend, (or just) being ready for the game.”