FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Revolution orchestrated one of the biggest trades in franchise history Wednesday, sending club captain Shalrie Joseph to Chivas USA in exchange for midfielder Blair Gavin, Chivas’ natural second-round draft pick and allocation money.
Following the first training in nearly 10 years without Joseph on the roster sheet, head coach Jay Heaps -- who played with Joseph from 2003-2009 -- called the trade involving the face of the Revolution franchise “the hardest decision” he’s had to make.
“It’s not a decision we (made) lightly,” Heaps said after training on Wednesday. “In the end, you weigh the pros versus the cons, where this club needs to be, where we’re going, and the tough decisions that need to be made.”
No question it was a tough decision. Only eight months ago, it appeared Joseph would likely retire in a Revolution uniform after the club re-signed him to a designated player deal that was worth nearly $555,000.
But mid-way through his first season as a designated player, Joseph appeared to lose his effectiveness in the midfield. No longer was he the box-to-box midfielder that the squad had so heavily relied upon in the past.
The first hint that Joseph’s future in New England was in question came when he was curiously dropped from the starting XI on July 8 against the Red Bulls. At the time, Heaps said that the decision had more to do with giving the 34-year-old midfielder a rest rather than anything else.
A week later, however, Joseph found himself back on the bench with Toronto in town. And for the first time since his rookie season, the Grenadian midfielder was no longer assured of a starting spot.
“He was in and out of our lineup,” Heaps said. “We just couldn’t foresee him starting every day or coming off the bench. It was going to be a tough call week to week.”
With the immediate future in New England bleak, it appeared that both sides agreed that the best decision was to part ways. But it was an understanding that caught many teammates by surprise.
“We were stunned and surprised,” Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said after Wednesday’s training. “I don’t think anyone expected it -- I certainly didn’t.”
For the Revolution, it’s a move that gives them considerable wiggle room under the salary cap. Meanwhile, Joseph goes to a club where he’ll be guaranteed a starting spot week-to-week.
“On Shalrie’s side, he’s been the consummate professional,” Heaps said. “He’s here every day working hard. I think this situation allows him to be the starter he deserves to be.”
Granted, it may not be with the organization where he made a name for himself. As an eight-time All-Star selection and fan favorite, Joseph certainly prided himself as a leader and spokesperson of the squad over the years.
But given the number of midfielders (12) on the Revolution roster, and the fight for spots growing fiercer every week, Feilhaber understood why Joseph may have welcomed the move.
“We’ve got a lot of players in the midfield and (Shalrie) hadn’t been playing as much as he’d like,” Feilhaber said. “I’m sure he’s happy with the move. I’m sure he’ll do really well with Chivas.”
Joseph was an eight-time MLS All-Star and the Revs' all-time leader in appearances (261), starts (254), minutes played (22,867) and penalty kick goals (12).
It may not be the storybook ending many envisioned for Joseph, who helped steer the club to three straight MLS Cup appearances from 2005-2007. Even so, Heaps acknowledged that Joseph’s contributions have afforded him a title that very few players earn over the course of their careers.
“The guy’s a legend,” Heaps said. “He’ll always be a legend and he’ll always be a Rev when it’s all said and done.”
Gavin, 23, is in his third pro season after Chivas USA drafted him 10th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Akron. A defensive midfielder, Gavin has made 43 career appearances, including 31 starts for the Goats. He's scored three goals and added five assists. At Akron, Gavin played three seasons and helped the Zips advance to the 2009 NCAA championship match. He is a former member of the U.S. U20 and U18 player pools.
The Revolution hosts Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Prior to the MLS match, Italian giant AC Milan will face Honduran power Olimpia at 4:30 p.m.