That Shalrie Joseph will soon be joining the Seattle Sounders comes as a bit of a shock to the system. The soon-to-be-35-year-old's best years are clearly behind him, but he's still going to be paid as if he's in his prime. There are definitely reasons to look at this move and wonder why the Sounders would be willing to use one of their three Designated Player spots on him, even if Chivas USA were willing to essentially pay to get rid of him.
To understand this deal, we need to take a view and see how Joseph could potentially fit into the squad.
First off, it appears the Sounders consider Joseph as more of a central midfielder or even possibly as a forward in some situations. That too may come as a bit of a surprise, as the general trend is for players to move back in the field as they get older. Regardless of how impressed the Sounders really were with Joseph during his two-day trial -- and it really does look as if they were just playing coy -- he is at the very least out of shape. So, we probably shouldn't expect him to be starting right away.
Once he does get into shape, you have to assume the Sounders only agreed to use a DP spot on them if they think he can be a starter. It's worth remembering that it was as recently as 2011 that Joseph was considered an elite CM, scoring eight goals for a rather putrid New England Revolution team. A year before that, he scored four goals and added five assists in just 22 games for another bad Revolution team. Heck, as bad as Joseph was last year he still had a combined three goals and four assists.
It's not exactly impossible to imagine him pairing up with Osvaldo Alonso to form a rather frightening central midfield, capable of breaking up opposing attacks and quickly transitioning into offense. Joseph may not be the kind of central attacking force that many have pined for ever since the Sounders entered MLS, but even at his worst he's been a solid passer capable of unlocking defenses from deeper in the midfield.
That probably necessitates another move for Brad Evans, who might be best suited to play as a right back but could also find himself in a midfield rotation or even see time at center back. Considering his best chance of truly breaking into the United States national team is as a utility player, he might be less concerned about finding himself in such a role. His biggest upside may even be as a defender, where his offensive abilities are considerably better in a relative sense.
The other shoe that would likely drop is the departure of Christian Tiffert. In talking to local media, Hanauer didn't literally say that Tiffert was leaving but he dropped some very heavy hints. Does that mean a trade, a transfer or a buyout? No one's saying, but the odds don't look very good that Tiffert will be with the team when the season starts.
Parting ways with Tiffert would also open a DP spot, allowing the Sounders to sign the "big money" forward they promised fans at the end-of-year business meeting. Might that be Obafemi Martins, the Sounders' latest rumored target? That's anyone's guess, but time is obviously running out if he's going to start the season with the team.
The final pieces surround what the Sounders extracted as payment for taking Joseph's DP tag, the Allocation Ranking being the item of most immediate importance. Sitting in the No. 3 spot is the highest the Sounders have been since they were able to convince Kasey Keller to come home and Hanauer seems to think it might be enough to entice someone else of similar ilk to give MLS a/another chance. As a point of reference, four players came to MLS via Allocation last season and five entered the league that way in 2011. That suggests the Sounders will at least get an opportunity to use that spot.
Considering all this, maybe you still don't like the trade and I won't begrudge anyone who feels that way. But this was not a move made in a vacuum or lacking a sense of a bigger picture, that much should be clear.