One of the biggest complaints about MLS is that they are not on the international calendar with a schedule that runs from August to May. Instead, they play through the summer, when many international tournaments are being played. That means that it is not unusual for teams to play without some of their best players that are off playing for their country. With MLS increasing in quality and bringing in more players from throughout the region, this is becoming more of a problem and one that the league will face this june with 10 of the 12 teams in the CONCACAF Gold Cup calling up players from MLS.
One player who had been called up, but had yet to decide if he would play in the Gold Cup is Shalrie Joseph. The midfielder is one of the top players in the league and the most important New England Revolution player. On Thursday, the team learned that he had accepted a call up to play for Grenada at the Gold Cup, leaving the Revolution with a huge hole in their team, especially since fellow midfielder Benny Feilhaber will be playing for the United States. Stoehurst, from SBN's Revolution blog The Bent Musket, took a look at how the Revs will handle the absence of Joseph and Feilhaber.
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.
The Revolution are in an unenvious position without Joseph and Feilhaber. The one positive is that Grenada is not expected to do well in the tournament, meaning Joseph could be back with the Revs after missing only a few matches. Of course, the Revolution are hardly the only team in MLS that will have to do without key players. The Los Angeles Galaxy will be without Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts, among others. Sporting Kansas City will miss four players and the New York Red Bulls are in the biggest lurch, losing five players to the Gold Cup, including Rafa Marquez and Juan Agudelo