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Monday, February 24, 2014
Joseph back with Revs in preseason camp

By Brian O'Connell

Talking about non-rostered camp participants with the media is not something Revolution coach Jay Heaps particularly enjoys. The way he sees it, it’s better to say too little publicly than too much when it comes to potential signings.

But after a trio of interesting names recently popped up on the roster sheet, Heaps knew he couldn’t avoid the topic entirely -- especially when it came to a certain ex-Revolution skipper.

While the arrivals of Belgian international Marvin Ogunjimi and former Whitecaps creative midfielder Daigo Kobayashi certainly piqued the interest of many, neither carried the cache of former fan favorite Shalrie Joseph, who made an unexpected return this weekend.

Joseph, who spent nearly 10 seasons in New England (2003-2012) before he was traded to Chivas USA in Aug. 2012, was invited back to train with the Revolution after his current club -- the Seattle Sounders -- effectively erased him from their plans. With an opportunity to lend his experience to a club whose average age is 24.5, Joseph couldn’t say no, even if his role at this juncture is undefined.

“Shalrie is just someone that we have a lot of respect for,” Heaps said via conference call on Sunday. “We brought him into camp to see where he is. (We’re) having a dialogue with him going forward, but at this time, we’re just kind of in a reconnecting phase.”

But what can a 35-year-old defensive midfielder who played less than a third of his club’s games last season bring to a team with a talented young core already in place? And perhaps more importantly, why bring back a player -- even if it’s on an interim basis -- who reportedly had a fractured relationship with his coach prior to the surprise trade to Chivas USA?

With the latter question at the forefront, Heaps is intrigued to see how Joseph interacts with the younger players, especially behind the scenes. Can the former skipper embrace the role of mentor while conceding minutes to those he’s mentoring?

The answers will come to forefront soon enough. But while those storylines unfold, Heaps is satisfied with allowing Joseph sufficient time to get his fitness back up.

“We don’t want to rush him into the full contact right now,” Heaps said, “when, really, this is his first couple of days of preseason (training).”

While Joseph will have to wait until Wednesday’s preseason clash with the Chicago Fire at the earliest to give the coaching staff an idea of what he’s got left in tank, Ogunjimi has already showcased his abilities in front of the coaching staff.

The 26-year-old striker joined camp early last week, and has played in both of the club’s first two Desert Diamond Cup clashes. In 90 combined minutes of action, Ogunjimi hasn’t found many opportunities inside the area, but Heaps has nevertheless kept an eye on how the Belgian international has meshed with his teammates for the time being.

“I thought Marvin assimilated well, and I liked how he was with the group,” Heaps said. “He’s a very smart soccer player, so he’s someone that we’re continuing to look at.”

Last, but not certainly least, is Kobayashi, who arrived in time to play against Real Salt Lake last Wednesday. In his 45-minute debut, the Japanese international immediately flashed his skill on set pieces, and came close to scoring on his first free kick in a Revolution jersey.

Heaps didn’t go into great detail about how the 31-year-old midfielder specifically fits into group, though it appears that the midfielder’s veteran savvy is something that the Revolution coach believes his club could stand to benefit from.

“Experience is a good thing to have,” Heaps said. “So I think we look at a couple of the players that we’re speaking to right now and (that) we’re getting to know better, and they have some experience (which) can help us in some tough situations.”

Granted, it’s still too early to tell which, if any, of the veteran trio will be offered contracts. Even so, Heaps may not like to talk aloud about the likes of Ogunjimi, Kobayashi and Joseph, there’s no doubt he enjoys having all of them around.

“(With) every player that we bring into our camp, we want to add a different dynamic,” Heaps said. “I think the players we’re bringing in enhance the current group that we have.”