DAVID BECKHAM is inhis own galaxy as a superstar, but Shalrie Joseph may be MLS's bestmidfielder—an unyielding tackler, a sublime passer, a terror on penalty kicks.Joseph plays a tough game born of tough roots, and he's leading the New EnglandRevolution into Sunday's MLS final against the Houston Dynamo. Sound familiar?It's a rematch of last year. Houston won. Joseph, titleless at 29, has notforgotten.
On Sunday's game
This is my third MLS Cup. I don't want to keep going to the final and notwinning. I don't want that to be my legacy.
I started when I was four in Grenada. By high school, soccer was an obsession.I didn't want to go to school, I didn't want to work. All I thought about wasplaying soccer.
My father died of cancer when I was a baby. I am an only child, and I wasraised by women. I think that made me wise and rational.
On the U.S.'s coldwar invasion of Grenada in 1983
I was five, and I remember the bombings and the sirens and everything so loud.Bombs came down right near our home—you could feel the ground shaking. Mygrandmother told me to hide under the bed, and I stayed there with my eyesclosed and covered my ears.
Coming to the U.S.at 15
My mother [Ann Marie] moved to Brooklyn when I was two, and I was raised by mygrandmother and my aunts in Grenada. She left for a better job—she worked as asales manager in a clothing store. She came back to Grenada at least once ayear to see me, but it was tough not having her there. In my teens, I startedgetting in trouble, hanging with a bad crowd, fighting a lot. My mother thoughtmy coming to America would be good.
On life inBrooklyn
Kids in [Grenada] think, America is sooo rich. But we lived in a toughneighborhood in Crown Heights. There were people on the streets doing all kindsof stuff to make that quick paper. That money is tempting, but my mother kindof held my hand and told me that wasn't what she wanted for me. So I playedsoccer, at Wingate High, and went to college [St. John's, where he majored insports management] and then to MLS.
Pickup games inBrooklyn
Tough and physical. The Jamaicans against the Haitians or the Puerto Ricans orthe Italians. No one wanted to look bad to their people. I got hurt all thetime. I once got an elbow that broke two teeth.
On the Revolutionlocker room
I'm the bully [laughs]. Guys play pranks, like putting itching powder orshaving cream in your shoes. But no one dares do it to me. I tell people who topull the pranks on.
His sports hero
Allen Iverson, for the way he sacrifices his body, mind and spirit on thecourt. He was raised by a single parent in a tough environment. So was I.Basketball was his passion and his outlet to stay out of the streets and make abetter life for himself. Same with me and soccer.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JEFF VELEZ
WADE JACKSON/ICON SMI (JOSEPH ACTION)