FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Shalrie Joseph breathed a sigh of relief when he finally put pen to paper on a new contract with the New England Revolution this past weekend.
With his previous deal set to expire at the end of December, Joseph’s future was in some doubt as speculation swirled that the 33-year-old midfielder could potentially move on from the only Major League Soccer club he’s ever known. The topic of his contract status seemed to follow Joseph throughout the 2011 season, with questions persisting on an almost weekly basis. Would he stay or would he go?
Thankfully – for Joseph, the Revolution and the club’s fans – it’s a question the captain won’t have to answer again anytime soon.
“It feels like a weight off my back,” said Joseph. “I don’t have to worry about it. I know where I’m going to be playing in 2012 and I look forward to it.
“The last couple of weeks have been a little bit stressful trying to [finalize] the terms, trying to cross the t’s and dot the i’s and finally [on Saturday] I was able to sign,” he added. “It’s a relief. It feels great. Now I can just relax, enjoy my offseason and get ready for 2012.”
One major difference in Joseph’s 10th season in New England will be the Revolution’s head coach. Steve Nicol had been at the helm for every one of Joseph’s first nine years in Foxborough, but the legendary Scotsman parted ways with the Revolution in October after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Joseph’s former teammate, Jay Heaps, has been hired to right the ship. The pair played together from Joseph’s entrance into the league in 2003 until Heaps’ retirement in 2009 and suited up alongside each other in three straight MLS Cup finals from 2005-07.
“He’s just such a great guy and I’ve seen him doing so many good things for this team and this organization,” Joseph said of Heaps. “I know what he likes, I know what he’s about, so we’re going to have a conversation, sit down together and make sure we get on the right track. I look forward to him being the leader of this team.”
While Heaps will lead from the bench, Joseph will once again lead on the field. The imposing central midfielder – who has captained the Revs for the past two seasons – is classified as a Designated Player under the terms of his new deal, but it’s a designation which Joseph claims means little more than words on a piece of paper.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me; it’s just another word,” said Joseph. “I’m going to come out here, work hard every day and put in the work in practice. Once I get out there, I’ll make sure everybody knows who I am, work hard and try to get the team back to winning ways, get back to MLS Cup and try to bring that trophy back to New England.”