The dust has settled since the announcement of Chivas USA trading Blair Gavin to the New England Revolution for Shalrie Joseph. The deal is strikingly similar to the trade conducted in May when Chivas traded midfielder Michael Lahoud to the Philadelphia Union for defender Danny Califf. In both situations, Chivas was trading promising young players who had not reached their potential with the Goats in exchange for successful MLS veterans in their 30s. Joseph is 34, so there's little expectation he will be the face of the franchise in five years. But despite the fact that Joseph has been with the Revolution since 2003, longevity in MLS is rather hard to come by.
Although there is skepticism, it would appear that the trade was meant to give Chivas more size and skill in the center of midfield, as well as experience in a part of the field that sometimes seemed to lack composure. Can Joseph make the difference to help Chivas move up the table and get into the playoffs in 2012?In the context of Chivas' other trades this season, there's every reason to believe that Joseph can be an upgrade in the midfield. Consider the in-season additions Chivas have made this season: they traded for Paolo Cardozo, signed Jose Correa from Colombia, traded for Juan Agudelo, traded for Danny Califf, and now traded for Joseph. Four of those five additions have MLS experience, and while Chivas continue to lag behind the rest of the league in goals scored, the scoring has shot up since Correa and Agudelo joined the team (four goals in eight games before their arrival, eight goals in 10 league games since). That may be a relative accomplishment, but still, the team is scoring more, and it is largely due to Correa and Agudelo.
Meanwhile, Califf's arrival shored up a defense that looked improved but still lacking veteran leadership in the first months of the season. Chivas had two clean sheets in their first 10 league matches, prior to Califf's arrival from Philadelphia. Since he's joined Chivas, they have five clean sheets in 10 matches. So while Chivas are very much an imperfect team, and while the contributions from other players on the roster have been important, the additions of Correa, Agudelo, and Califf in particular have improved the team. Cardozo has been a frustrating player, but he's slowly found a rhythm in recent weeks as well.
One of the main critiques of the club since May has been the lack of cohesion in the midfield. While it remains somewhat unclear as to the role that Joseph will take and if Robin Fraser will change his policy in rotating the midfield nearly every match for Joseph, it is undeniable that Joseph has a few attributes that Chivas desperately need. Most notably, his size is an asset, and it should help provide protection in the midfield for teammates, especially Paolo Cardozo, Miller Bolanos, and Ryan Smith, all of whom are small players who deal with a lot of physical contact. In addition, Joseph is a very good passer and has the ability to pull the strings for his teammates in the attack, something that Chivas has struggled with all season. He has the versatility to play throughout the center of midfield as well as center back, and he should provide depth in defense as well should the Goats need it. Above all, however, for him to be at his most effective, Joseph should play most of his minutes in the midfield.
Is there a chance that Joseph is past it, and will not be the magic solution Chivas fans were hoping for? Of course. You could argue that Chivas have been lucky in getting so much production from Juan Pablo Angel and Danny Califf, or you could argue that Chivas' front office have been shrewd in selecting players that are on the wrong side of 30, but who still have a lot left to contribute to their team. This latest trade comes with risk, but would you rather see a team with Chivas' position in the table stand pat? Would you rather hold onto Gavin, who hasn't played up to the hype, and see if maybe he can figure it out over the second half of the season? Would you like to see Chivas take a chance on a player who was once considered untouchable and who the Goats did not need to give up a major asset for? It could prove inconsequential, but I think this was a smart move. If Joseph can slot into the lineup as quickly and effectively as possible, Chivas' playoff hopes may see a real boost in 2012.
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