When Major League Soccer unveiled The 25 Greatest presented by AT&T back in December 2020 – highlighting what the league called “the most decorated and impactful players in MLS history” – most of the names you’d have expected to see topped the list: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Marco Etcheverry, Preki, Steve Ralston, Chris Wondolowski, etc. From the league’s humble beginnings in the late ‘90s to present day, almost all of Major League Soccer’s best and brightest were right where they belonged.
One name, however, was conspicuously absent.
Shalrie Joseph – the four-time MLS Best XI selection and eight-time MLS All-Star – was unquestionably the biggest snub, somehow overlooked despite being perhaps the most dominant midfielder that the league has ever known. The outcry was immediate, mainly from MLS players themselves – those who know best just how “decorated and impactful” Joseph was throughout his lengthy MLS career.
But to be honest, it was nothing new for Joseph, whose place among the best of the best has somehow never been cemented, never been guaranteed, largely because of the unglamorous position he played. For more than a decade he was almost always the best player on the field – for either team – but he did it in a way that wasn’t always flashy and didn’t always stand out. He was the midfield engine. Even when he did score, it was often the scrappy, hardworking goals that rarely make the highlight reels.
There’s a chance, however, to make it right, because Shalrie Joseph is on the final ballot for the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2023, and there’s little question that he deserves to take his place alongside the most impactful figures in American soccer history.
The case is actually quite simple, and the accolades speak for themselves. Joseph was named to the MLS Best XI four times (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009), one of only 13 players in MLS history to make as many as four Best XIs, while only five players have been named to the Best XI more than four times. He was an eight-time MLS All-Star, a Revolution record, and he was a 2009 MLS MVP Finalist after registering eight goals and eight assists while largely playing out of position as an emergency forward for the Revolution.
Joseph was equally dominant on both sides of the ball. He most often operated in central midfield, but he was a beast defensively, earning 2006 Revolution Defender of the Year honors. But he also consistently contributed in the attack, ranking top 10 all-time in club history in goals (37) and assists (34) and twice winning the Revolution’s Golden Boot award (2009, 2011). I’ll say that again: Joseph was named the Revolution’s Defender of the Year and won the club’s Golden Boot award multiple times within the span of just six seasons. Again, dominant.
Perhaps most importantly, Joseph was a winner. His 11 seasons with the Revolution included four Eastern Conference championships, a 2007 U.S. Open Cup title, and a SuperLiga 2008 title. He was clutch in big moments, scoring the extra-time equalizer against the Houston Dynamo that sent that SuperLiga final to penalties, converting his attempt to help the Revs to a continental trophy.
On the international stage, Joseph represented Grenada, making 20 appearances for his home country and earning the distinction of 2007 Caribbean Player of the Year. While it’s possible that Joseph’s accomplishments are often overlooked simply because he didn’t play for the U.S. Men’s National Team, there’s no doubt he would’ve been a force in the USMNT setup in the mid-2000s.
As a player, Joseph was a dominant physical presence in the middle of the park, but also a brilliant soccer mind who thought the game faster than most opponents. Now he’s putting that soccer mind to use as a coach, currently working as an assistant on Bruce Arena’s staff with the Revolution following stints as both the Revs’ Under-15 Academy coach and head coach of the Grenada National Team.
Shalrie Joseph left his mark on American soccer as a player. He’ll continue to leave his mark as a coach. And he’s as deserving as anyone of a place in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.