FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jay Heaps knew he’d have difficult decisions to make when he took the position as head coach of the New England Revolution. It’s safe to say parting ways with a club legend and a personal friend falls firmly into that category.
The decision to send club captain Shalrie Joseph to Chivas USA – in exchange for midfielder Blair Gavin, a second-round selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money – was excruciating for Heaps, who played alongside Joseph from 2003 to 2009. But after meticulously analyzing all aspects of the situation, it’s a decision Heaps is confident will prove beneficial to the Revolution moving forward.
“It’s not a decision we took lightly. It’s not a decision we came to on a whim,” said Heaps, who called the decision the hardest he’s ever had to make. “There was a lot of organizational thought process behind it. In the end, when you weigh the pros versus the cons and (analyze) where this club needs to be and where we’re going, tough decisions need to be made. But they’re not taken lightly, that’s for sure.”
Joseph was a fixture in the Revolution’s midfield for almost 10 seasons – guiding the club to three straight MLS Cup appearances between 2005 and 2007 – but he’d started just once in New England’s past five games, making three substitute appearances during that span. Prior to that stretch, Joseph had made just four career substitute appearances while racking up 254 career starts.
The emergence of players like Benny Feilhaber, Ryan Guy, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Clyde Simms made for a crowded scene in the Revolution’s midfield and Joseph’s place amongst the starters was seemingly no longer guaranteed. For a player of Joseph’s ilk – the 34-year-old was one of New England’s two Designated Players, along with Jerry Bengtson – Heaps felt it was necessary to provide a different opportunity.
“I think the opportunity’s going to allow him to be a starter,” said Heaps. “He was in and out of the lineup and we couldn’t foresee him starting every day or coming off the bench. It was going to be a tough call week to week. I think in the end this situation allows him to be that starter that he deserves to be.”
Of course, while the move could prove beneficial for Joseph, these types of decisions are made first and foremost with the club’s best interests in mind. In that sense, Joseph’s departure frees up not only a Designated Player spot, but it also provides flexibility under the salary budget and the trade adds allocation money to make future additions to the roster.
“With this trade, we gain a significant amount of roster flexibility and add a player in Blair Gavin who has great potential, an additional draft pick next year, plus allocation money – all of which provides us options to improve the team,” General Manager Michael Burns said in the team’s official press release.
The question now becomes what’s next for the Revs, who trained for the first time without Joseph on Wednesday morning shortly after holding a team meeting to discuss the move. Heaps has made it a point to explain the reasoning behind each and every roster move with the players and provide an open forum for discussion.
“It was a real direct conversation with the players,” said Heaps. “Some players were taken aback, some players wanted to know what the thought process was and we laid it out there for them. Where are we now? Where are we going? What makes us better in the near term and what makes us better in the long term? Those questions were asked and those questions were answered.”