Sounders FC opened its CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series without key players such as Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, David Estrada and Michael Gspurning.
And in the wake of the resulting 1-0 loss to Santos Laguna, it was easy enough to overlook better news: the Seattle debut of designated player Shalrie Joseph.
The veteran midfielder made his first appearance wearing a Sounders crest, playing 72 minutes as part of the Sounders five-man midfield.
“I think he helps us,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s a good distributor of the ball. I think he finds people forward, but he’s another guy who hasn’t played a 90-minute game in an awful long time, so he’s rounding into fitness. I thought in the first 45 minutes he helped us. It sounds like a broken record, but it’s true: Unfortunately, we’re still trying to get to know each other. Now Shalrie in with Ozzie (Alonso): Do they know each other? Shalrie looks to play a lot of first-time balls off and that caught some of the guys by surprise.”
Joseph agreed with that assessment.
“A lot us didn’t practice together yet,” he said. “It was my first game in a couple of months. You could tell I wasn’t as sharp as I would like to be. The more we practice together, the more we work together ... the sky is the limit, and we got to start winning games.”
Joseph, 34, spent most of his career with the New England Revolution. He was traded last season to Chivas USA, which sent him to Seattle on Feb. 19.
He arrived out of shape, and his progress back to fitness was delayed due to a calf injury.
He recovered enough for full training last week, and drew the starting assignment Tuesday.
“It felt great,” he said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted, but there are a lot of positives we can take from it.”
The result gives Santos a one-goal advantage going into the aggregate-score series’ resolution game Tuesday in Mexico.
Seattle’s next MLS game will come against Joseph’s former team, as the Revolution visits CenturyLink Field on April 13.
The Sounders were off Wednesday. They will return to training today and will begin their trip to Torreon, Mexico, on Sunday. ... Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee was voted MLS player of the month for March. Magee recorded a league-high five goals, including a hat trick in L.A.’s opener against Chicago.