Weekly column: Did Chivas USA’s acquisition of playmaker Joseph shift the balance of MLS power in Southern California?

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Man in the middle: New Chivas USA midfield general Shalrie Joseph was already directing traffic at his first practice with his new club since being traded by the New England Revolution. Chivas USA midfielder Blair Gavin, a draft pick and cash went in the other direction (Photo courtesy Olivia Cervantes/Chivas USA).

The trade for Shalrie Joseph certainly has made this weekend’s game against the Galaxy an even more competitive affair.

Chivas USA have a stagnant offense, the Galaxy a sieve-like defense and Joseph is expected to have a major effect on both, a topic explored in this week’s column.

Wonder if he will get a few minutes on the field today when Chivas USA reserves play their Galaxy counterparts at 11 a.m. on Field 4 at Home Depot Center?

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Chivas USA’s Joseph trains with team today for first time

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Chivas USA fan Yvie Bueno welcomed the club’s newest signing – and arguably its biggest ever acquisition – Shalrie Joseph to Southern California today after his first training session with the team Monday morning.

I’ll have more on Joseph and what his signing means to Chivas USA ahead of this weekend’s SuperClasico with the Galaxy in Tuesday’s column.

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Hermosa Beach’s Wambach Newcastle “Nightmare” for New Zealand in U.S. Olympics win

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Gymnast tribute: In a nod to Olympic gymnasts, U.S. striker Abby Wambach included a cartwheel in her goal celebration today against New Zealand (AP Photo).

Players with Southern California ties led the U.S. Women’s National Team to the Olympic semifinals today. Asociated Press Sports Writer Joseph White has the game story:

NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — These were perhaps going to be the Hope Solo Olympics for the U.S. women’s soccer team. Or maybe the Alex Morgan Games. Instead, they belong so far to the old reliable, Abby Wambach, who has scored in every match to lead the Americans into the semifinals.

The 32-year-old striker slid onto the ball in the 27th minute Friday to knock home her fourth goal of the tournament and then led a celebration of cartwheels — a tribute to the gymnastics team — in the United States’ 2-0 win over New Zealand in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.

“Everything she does on and off the field, she leads this team,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “She’s in a good place, that’s for sure.”

UCLA product Sydney Leroux added an insurance goal in the 87th minute for the two-time defending Olympic champions, who will play the winner of the Britain-Canada match in Manchester on Monday.

Wambach extended her U.S. record with her eighth career Olympic goal — a mark she holds despite missing the Beijing Games with a broken leg — and pushed her international tally to 142, only 16 behind Mia Hamm’s world record. For most of the year, she has yielded much of the scoring load to youngster Morgan while using both holistic and traditional treatments to treat the nagging Achilles tendinitis that has bothered her for some three years.

“I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, I’m not quite sure exactly what the reason is, but I’m not
going to ask questions at this point,” Wambach said. “I’m just playing pain-free for the first time in a long time.”

New Zealand coach Tony Readings called Wambach “a nightmare,” and the sight of the 5-foot-11 veteran battling multiple defenders and picking herself up off the ground has become so commonplace that her teammates hardly notice.

“Oh, we turn a blind eye to all of her bumps and bruises,” goalkeeper Solo said. “She hits the floor, she hits the ground, it doesn’t even faze us any more because she’s tough. She might be hurting, but she’s mentally tough. She has more of a lion and a passion inside that nothing will stop her, and she’ll find a way to win. It rubs off on everybody.

“But maybe we should probably go up to her and say, ‘Abby, you OK?’” Solo added with a laugh. “But we just ignore it.”

Wambach’s scoring spurt is remarkable given all the attention she draws from the opposition. Even though her speed isn’t what it used to be, she’s still one of the strongest players in the game and is unmatched in the air — yet three of her four goals at the Olympics have come with her feet.

On Friday, she supplied the finishing touch to some hard work from Morgan, who took a long ball from Rachel Buehler, juked one defender and threaded the ball through two others toward the net. Morgan said it was a shot, but it turned into her third assist of the tournament — finding Wambach’s sliding right foot at the far post.

Wambach and the U.S. players, always looking for novel ways to display their happiness, then ran to the corner of the field and started doing cartwheels before the crowd of 10,441 at venerable St. James’ Park, home of Newcastle United. They tried to stick their landings — something akin to what they saw on television from Gabby Douglas when they watched the American gymnast win the all-around title on Thursday.

“We obviously don’t do it quite as well,” Wambach said. “But we wanted to send a shout out to all the gymnasts.”

No one has publicly criticized such celebrations by the Americans at these Olympics, but the New Zealand coach said it’s something he wouldn’t want to see from his players.

“I wouldn’t like it if our team did that,” Readings said, “when teams concede and they’re
disappointed and they want to get on with the game. But it’s obviously something the Americans do. … It’s something I guess they work on in training. I hope we try to work on scoring goals and stopping Wambach and Morgan. We haven’t got time to work on celebrations. If it makes them happy and they win games, then good on them.”
Sundhage said she’s been fine with her players’ antics.

“I’m not a psychologist,” the U.S. coach said. “We score goals, and you’re happy. What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that’s perfectly fine.”

Solo recorded her third consecutive shutout, although once again she was rarely challenged. The Americans haven’t allowed a goal since France scored twice early in the first half of the Olympic opener. “We haven’t been really tested,” Solo said. “I’m waiting to still get tested, but that’s what happens when you’re ranked No. 1.”

New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, was making its first appearance in the knockout phase of a major tournament. The Football Ferns have lost nine straight to the U.S., with their only win in the series coming in 1987.

Even though they’re on a winning streak, the Americans had trouble turning control-of-play dominance into goals for the third straight game. They led Colombia 1-0 before getting two goals late in the second half and beat North Korea 1-0, albeit after slowing the game down in the second half to save their legs for the quarterfinals.

Morgan was just wide with a pair of solid scoring chances, and Morgan and Wambach both had scary collisions with New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon. Wambach kicked Bindon in the head in the first half, and Morgan did the same in the second half.

Morgan’s collision left her with a charley horse and she soon left for Leroux, the youngest
player on the team and the only one who wasn’t on last year’s World Cup squad. It didn’t take long for Leroux to score her first Olympic goal, outpacing the New Zealand defenders with a run down the left side and beating Bindon with a strong left-footed finish.

There were no cartwheels from the 21-year-old forward after the ball went in. Just unbridled joy.

“I didn’t plan anything because I went crazy,” Leroux said. “I was unaware that I scored, I
think. I blacked out, I’m pretty sure. I was just, like, going crazy. … I think I almost
starting crying and the game wasn’t even over.”

Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

Updated:

The U.S. will face this country in the semis.

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Chivas USA trades MF Gavin for Revs captain Joseph in one of the biggest acquisitions in club history

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In what is a transformative move for both clubs, Chivas USA picked up gritty playmaker and New England Revolution club captain Shalrie Joseph today for the as yet unrealised potential of young midfielder Blair Gavin, the Goats’ second-round selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money.

“Shalrie Joseph … has been one the most consistent players in this League,” said Chivas USA’s General Manager Jose Domene. “He brings his experience and he will help us make that final push for the playoffs and hopefully MLS Cup.”

Joseph, 34, the heart and soul of the Revs over the last decade, is arguably one of the premier playmakers and the best two-way player in MLS period, a gritty midfielder who leads by example going forward, but also tracks back and doesn’t shirk defensive reponsibilities.

“Trading Shalrie was a not a decision we made easily,” Revs General Manager Michael Burns said in a statement. “Shalrie has been one of the faces of the club for a decade, but we had to take a hard look at our roster and decide where we needed to be as we look toward the future. Shalrie has accomplished so much as a member of the Revs, and we wish him nothing but best wishes as he moves on to the next stage in his career with Chivas USA.”

“With this trade, we gain a significant amount of roster flexibility and add a player in Blair Gavin who has great potential, an additional draft pick next year, plus allocation money – all of which provides us options to improve the team.”

Joseph, the highest paid player on the Revs’ squad, is set to make more than $554,000 this year, according to figures released by the MLS Players Union earlier this year. Gavin is due to make $80,000.

Gavin, a first round draft pick in 2010, made 43 appearances for Chivas USA, including 31 starts, scoring three goals and adding five assists. But he never really stamped his authority on a team that lacked bite in midfield and creative purpose moving forward and has had awful problems in front of the net, scoring just 14 times this season, the league’s lowest total.

That lack of scoring threatened Chivas USA’s chances of making the playoffs behind a rock-solid defense that has allowed just 22 goals, tied for the second lowest total in the league.

Joseph is expected to solve those problems and more.

It’s difficult to understate his contributions to the Revolution. From the club:

Joseph leaves the club as its all-time leader in appearances (261), starts (254), minutes played (22,867), penalty kick goals (12) and fouls suffered (421). He ranks second in shots (321), shots on goal (130) and game-winning assists (13), third in assists (34) and fourth in goals (37).

A finalist for the 2009 MLS MVP award, Joseph is a four-time MLS Best XI performer (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009) and an eight-time MLS All-Star. He helped the club make a league-record six straight appearances in the Eastern Conference championship match, and also started all three of the team’s most recent appearances in MLS Cup (2005, 2006, 2007).

“This was a very difficult decision for us to make,” Revs coach Jay Heaps said. “For as long as I can remember, Shalrie has been the Revolution’s anchor and one of the team’s leaders. Through the years, he helped set the tone every day, gave everything he had for the Revs and was consummate teammate. As his coach – and his friend – we’ll miss Shalrie on the field and in the locker room every day, but we have to look ahead and make decisions with the best interest of the club in mind.

Joseph didn’t sound happy about the trade, however:

Joseph will have time to meet his new teammates before presumably being unveiled on national television.

Chivas USA has a week off from MLS action as the club prepares for the third and final SuperClsico of the season at 8 p.m. Aug. 12 on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

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