TUKWILA — When veteran midfielder Shalrie Joseph turned up at Seattle Sounders FC training this morning, he turned some heads for a number of reasons. The question marks surrounding the Sounders back line haven't subsided with the recent injury to Patrick Ianni, but Joseph was perhaps a solution many hadn't considered.
But listening to head coach Sigi Schmid, he obviously had no qualms about his newest invitee.
"He's a quality player. He's always been a quality player," Schmid said after training on Friday. "I thought he was a main cog in their (New England Revolution) team that got to MLS Cup for a lot of years, and he's the kind of guy who talks a lot on the field and helps direct younger players."
At this point, Joseph's future with Chivas USA is bleak. He signed with the Goats following a midseason trade from the New England Revolution, where he spent nine full prior seasons, and found himself as surplus with the hiring of new head coach José Luis Sanchéz Solá.
The 34-year-old plays as a defensive midfielder or, more recently, center back. Joseph has six MLS All-Star selections to his name, as well as 273 league appearances since 2003.
A need to plug up the central defense with Jeff Parke's trade and Ianni's injury could have motivated Schmid to take a look at Joseph. Or perhaps he's considering playing Joseph alongside Osvaldo Alonso in the defensive midfield.
He played in that holding role during an 11-on-11 game on Friday, but Mauro Rosales was playing center back on the opposite team, so perhaps that isn't a telling indication.
Schmid kept quiet about whether Joseph might be used in the midfield or defense, but he did admit that "we're a team that's cap-constrained, and there's a lot of things to work out."
Reports from Joseph's agent are that Seattle and Chivas are currently negotiating a trade, but Joseph's Designated Player salary might hold Sounders FC back from acquiring him.
Joseph is on a $495,000 base salary ($554,333.33 total guaranteed money) at Chivas, according to the MLS Players' Union numbers from Oct. 1, 2012. That's a cap hit for which the Sounders simply don't have room, but if Chivas is motivated to get rid of him and decides that absorbing some of that burden is a viable option, that would help.
"I'm sure there's a couple obstacles," Joseph said after training. "Financially, it might be hard for (the Sounders)."
For now, Joseph is just focused on playing after a sudden fall from grace last season. He vanished from the Revolution lineup mid-summer, never managing to win back a permanent starting spot.
"Speaking to the (Chivas USA) coach and seeing how he feels and seeing where the direction of the team was going, I knew I wasn't going to be a part of it," he said. "Once I realized that, then it was just where I wanted to play and where I wanted to finish my career."
Joseph's arrival is reminiscent of Eddie Johnson's when he landed in the rave green after a trade with the Montreal Impact last year. Since teaming up with Schmid, Johnson's career has been effectively revived at age 28, leading to starts in the last three World Cup qualifiers for the United States.
"At this point in my career, I want to be with somebody who understands the game and who can push me and motivate me and take me to that next level, which is trying to win a championship and get back to winning trophies," Joseph said of his potential new coach.
Based on his own reports, the 2002 St. John's University graduate and 2003 Grenadian Footballer of the Year fit in well with the Sounders during his first training session.
"(It's the) first day, and I feel right at home already. They've had open arms," he said. "It feels great having guys trying to teach you, trying to tell you and trying to help you. That's the kind of team I want to be around."
Never afraid to voice an opinion, Joseph also let his current employer know exactly how he feels, albeit in a roundabout way.
"I'm just here enjoying getting back to playing again," he said. "It feels good to train with some guys who actually appreciate what I can bring to a team."