This complement is unspoken
Cancela, Joseph click in midfield
The Boston Globe
By Frank Dell'Apa, Globe Staff
OXBOROUGH -- Jose Carlos ''Pepe'' Cancela and Shalrie Joseph have little to say
to each other. Actually, Cancela and Joseph have an excellent rapport, but it is
an unspoken understanding since Cancela speaks little English and Joseph little
The Revolution threw Cancela and Joseph together in what seemed an alchemic
experiment midway through the Major League Soccer season, and the combination
has produced some of the most effective midfield play in the team's history. The
Revolution, who meet the MetroStars at 4 p.m. today in an Eastern Conference
semifinal at Gillette Stadium, are two games away from a second successive MLS
Cancela is the playmaker, poised and technical on the ball, precise in finding
the open man, frustrating to opponents because of his ability to keep
possession. Joseph is the midfield metronome, dictating the rhythm of play,
recovering possession and restarting the offense with bionic endurance and
Cancela, from Santa Lucia, Uruguay, and Joseph, who lived for 16 years in St.
George's, Grenada, before moving to Brooklyn, are from dissimilar backgrounds.
But they both talk of growing up with soccer as a focal point of their
Cancela, 27, was fast-tracked into professional soccer, developing with the
powerful Club Atletico Penarol, then moving on to clubs in Mexico and Costa Rica
before joining the Revolution in July. Uruguay regularly produces extremely
talented players, and the best have been placed on the world market, providing a
pipeline to Europe since the 1920s.
Cancela exemplifies the Uruguayan midfielder -- clever but pragmatic. And he is
durable. When the MetroStars' Joey DiGiamarino and Eddie Pope took full-speed
runs to chop him down in recent games, Cancela recovered rapidly and resisted
the urge to retaliate.
''In all leagues, they play with a lot of intensity,'' Cancela said. ''It's the
same in Uruguay. They defend with intensity, but it's a little more
Uruguay's soccer history is rich, its standards high. The Uruguayans won the
1924 and '28 Olympic titles in Europe, then played host to the first World Cup
in 1930 and won that, and won the 1950 World Cup.This is Cancela's first
experience in a non-Latino culture. Though Cancela is clearly a high-level
player, he has kept a low profile, absorbing the strangeness of a new country.
''In my country, the only thing is football,'' Cancela said. ''When I was young
we were on the field all day, always playing, and when I go back on vacation
now, it's the same. The kids are out there all day. It is so different than
here. We don't have all these other sports. Here, you have baseball, basketball.
We have about 5,000 people living in my barrio and the only thing we have is
football, and everybody plays.''
Joseph, 25, has defied odds to become a professional, albeit at the league's
$24,000 minimum salary. Only one player from Grenada is performing in Europe:
Jason Roberts, a forward with West Bromwich Albion. Joseph began shedding his
soccer anonymity after moving to Crown Heights, playing in New York's ethnic
leagues against older opponents, adjusting to their ruthless style. Joseph
earned a scholarship to St. John's University, then rejected the Revolution to
try out for teams in Germany and Italy. The vibes, Joseph said, were negative in
Mannheim, and the Italian club declared bankruptcy. So he returned to the
Revolution last December.
''There are a lot of soccer-oriented people in New York, and I was surprised by
that,'' Joseph said. ''The fields, the people, the environment were all better
in New York than what I was used to in Grenada. It's a real melting pot, players
and teams from everywhere. The weekend games were very competitive and physical.
The key word is `survive.' ''
Caribbean players have a reputation for being skillful but unrefined. Their
influences derive from their proximity to South America, but also from the days
of British colonialism. ''Every Caribbean island plays a physical style,''
Joseph said. ''But the talent is more individual than team-oriented.''
Before the season, the Revolution acquired Polish veteran Peter Nowak and were
planning to pair him with either Leo Cullen or Daniel Hernandez in midfield.
Joseph was slated to be a reserve central defender. Cancela was performing for
CD Saprissa in Costa Rica. Then Nowak retired and Revolution coach Steve Nicol
began auditioning midfielders.Cancela is a pure setup midfielder, his touches
precise, his passes often spectacular. Opponents have zeroed in on Cancela and
he was fouled 64 times, more than any other Revolution player, in 13
regular-season games. Joseph short-circuits opponents' play, often dropping into
position just in front of the defenders, but is remarkably quick in recovering
the ball and accurate in transitioning to attack.
''We understand each other very well, even though we didn't know each other
before,'' said Cancela. ''We developed an understanding very fast.''
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.