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Shalrie Joseph Accepts Grenada Gold Cup Call-up

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According to an official team release this morning, New England Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph has accepted his call-up to the Grenadian National Team for this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. He (along with USA international Benny Feilhaber) will play against the Galaxy on Saturday before departing for his country's camp. He stands to miss at least two games for the group stages and could be unavailable to the Revs for as many as five if Grenada manages to make the knockout stages.

Joseph was actually listed on the official roster submitted to CONCACAF before the tournament but had been mulling over his decision until this morning. He has just 20 caps and one goal for the Spice Boys despite being one of the nation's top players, and last featured for the squad in FIFA World Cup qualifiers back in the summer of 2008. He has, however, been named Grenada Footballer of the Year in 2003 and 2008 and was the Caribbean Player of the Year in 2007.

It's tough to think that New England will cope easily with his absence considering that he's almost unarguably the Revolution's best player, and as captain is the heart and soul of the team. It becomes doubly problematic when you factor in the absence of Benny Feilhaber with the US National Team. The two key elements of the three-man midfield and the team's two best passers will be gone, and the most immediate replacements are either injured or unproven. The Revs will be struggling just to survive without them.

If Coach Nicol wants to stick to the 4-3-3 he's been doggedly implementing this season then his first-choice midfield against FC Dallas on June 4th will likely be Stephen McCarthy, Pat Phelan and Ousmane Dabo. That's assuming Dabo is healthy, of course. Phelan hasn't gotten much play lately this season thanks to the acquisition of Feilhaber and Nicol's preference for McCarthy, which should tell you everything you need to know about his confidence in Phelan's ability to replicate what Joseph and Feilhaber bring to the table. McCarthy has had a surprising rookie campaign but he has a tendency to go absent in matches and hasn't yet learned the instincts necessary to become a consistent passing outlet like Joseph and Dabo. A decent midfield (and Dallas certainly have a decent midfield) can mark him straight out of the game.

If Dabo is still unhealthy by that point, Nicol's third midfielder could be anyone. Andrew Sousa has yet to feature this season but could play the position, and he's also shown a willingness to move Chris Tierney inside if necessary. It's far more likely, though, that the Revs will instead play a straight 4-4-2 if Dabo is unavailable, playing to their strength of depth. In fact, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Nicol deploying the 4-4-2 regardless, at least as long as Joseph remains gone. If this season's substitution patterns have shown us anything it's that Steve Nicol has absolutely zero confidence in his bench and reserves; he consistently brings on the same players regardless of the game situation and refuses to bring his new young players even into the 18-man match squad. A 4-4-2 allows him to keep playing the guys he's kept faith with already.

A fully-healthy 4-3-3 without Joseph and Feilhaber would probably look something like this:

-- Reis --

-- Alston -- Cochrane/Coria -- Soares -- Domi --

-- McCarthy -- Dabo -- Phelan --

-- Boggs -- Lekic -- Perovic --

Honestly not a terrible starting XI. However, assuming Dabo, Domi and Perovic are still hurt (not a terrible assumption to make, given the evidence this season):

-- Reis --

-- Alston -- Cochrane/Coria -- Soares -- Barnes --

-- McCarthy -- Phelan -- Sousa --

-- Boggs -- Lekic -- Tierney --

Definitely not a confidence-inspiring. There are some moving parts, including putting Tierney at left back and bringing on someone like Mansally, Nyassi or Schilawski to start up front, and if even one of the three players in question are healthy then the XI looks better, but things still don't look too great.

The 4-4-2 would look more like this:

-- Reis --

-- Alston -- Cochrane/Coria -- Soares -- Domi --

-- Boggs -- McCarthy -- Dabo -- Perovic --

-- Lekic -- Schilawski --

With Dabo out you'd see Phelan slot in, Domi out would prompt Barnes' or Tierney's inclusion, an missing Perovic would bring in Tierney or Mansally if Tierney is already employed on the left. It wouldn't be surprising, either, to see Tierney start on the left and a healthy Perovic paired up with Lekic, which is something the Revs did often last season, with Perovic playing off of Ilija Stolica.

In any case, several players not normally featuring as starters will have to step up big time and be counted if the Revolution can expect to remain competitive during the Gold Cup. The good news with Shalrie's call-up, though, is that he is unlikely to be gone anywhere near as long as Feilhaber. The USA should be competing for the championship; Grenada is playing in just their second CONCACAF championship tournament in history, and were unable to break out of the group stages in their first appearance back in 2009.

That isn't to say the Spice Boys lack talent; Shalrie may be the highlight of the squad, but it also features players like MLS veteran Craig Rocastle and several future Premier League players who are employed by Queen's Park Rangers. Their grouped with Honduras, Jamaica and Guatemala, though, and it wouldn't be a poor bet to assume that they will finish behind at least the Reggae Boyz and Los Catrachos. Again, their abysmal showing in 2009 has to be considered. If they are knocked out in the group stage, Joseph will return in time for June 15th's home match versus Toronto FC.

I don't want to wish ill on the national team of Grenada or Shalrie's hopes for international glory, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for them to bow out quickly. I'm not sure the Revolution can handle missing him much longer than a couple of weeks.

What do you think of Shalrie leaving for the Gold Cup? How do you think the Revolution will fare in his absence? What do you think Steve Nicol should do to cope? Leave your thoughts below!