By Dylan Butler
The Shalrie Joseph experiment was a smashing success for the St. John’s soccer team Saturday night.
After injuries decimated his defensive corps, Red Storm head coach Dave Masur was forced to move Joseph, one of his most explosive offensive players, back to help shore up the back line. Despite never playing the position before, Joseph shined, as No. 2 ranked St. John’s Red Storm pitched its second consecutive Big East shutout with a 1-0 win over Georgetown in front of 1,147 at DaSilva Memorial Field.
“It was the first time I played back there,” Joseph said. “I just listened to [fellow defender and tri-captain Chris Wingert] and it was a matter of knowing my role and rotation.”
Joseph said he learned of the move just 20 minutes before kickoff Saturday. But the Red Storm’s leading scorer, who has a goal and two assists in St. John’s first four games, accepted the challenge and tried to adapt to his new surroundings.
“I was a bit surprised, but I wanted to see how I would do,” Joseph said.
And how did he do? Considering St. John’s (4-0, 2-0 Big East) notched its third straight shutout and junior goalkeeper Guy Hertz did not have to make a save, the last-second switch seemed more than successful.
“I’d give him an A,” said Wingert when asked what grade he would give Joseph in his first game as a defender. “Playing back there is not easy, but he stepped up and had a real easy time. I’d give the entire defense an A.”
Led by Wingert, a sophomore who earlier in the week was named tri-captain along with Joseph and Jeff Matteo, the Red Storm defense was stingy, as Georgetown (2-3-1, 0-1) was never truly dangerous. The Hoyas managed just three shots and only one, a flick off the head of freshman forward Kaiser Chowdhry from five yards out in the 73rd minute, was close to finding the back of the net.
St. John’s dominated possession, but only had one quality scoring chance in the first half, when Hoyas’ junior keeper Brian O’Hagan stopped junior midfielder Alberto Duenas’ free kick from 25 yards out.
In the second half, the Red Storm continued to push forward and began to get better scoring chances, as sophomore forward Tim O’Neil’s shot from the left wing rang off the football crossbar in the 48th minute. Sophomore forward Angel Rodriguez also had a pair of close calls in the 58th minute, but both shots sailed wide.
“I thought we passed pretty consistently through the first 70 minutes, we were good in the midfield, Shalrie and Chris were very good in the back,” Masur said. “We’re just trying to get that consistent play as we go forward. We were a little better in the second half.”
Finally, in the 71st minute St. John’s broke the scoreless tie when Simone Salinno followed a shot by Peter Philipakos that was blocked by the Georgetown defense and slotted it into the upper left-hand corner of the net from 20 yards out. It was the freshman midfielder from Lucera, Italy’s second goal of the year.
“Pete came in with the shot and I saw the ball come back off [a defender], so I followed the play,” Salinno said. “It was a big goal for us and I was pleased.”
It was the Red Storm’s first game back on the field since the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, as games against Columbia and St. Francis (Pa.) were canceled and a critical Big East battle at Connecticut Sept. 15 was postponed and rescheduled for Nov. 6.
“All of the things that have been happening in the last two weeks pale in comparison to waiting to play,” Masur said. “We feel so much empathy for the families affected by last week’s tragedy that it wasn’t a big deal to wait to play a soccer game.”
Next up for the Red Storm is a battle with archrival Rutgers (3-1-1, 2-0) Wednesday night at DaSilva Memorial Field. The 23rd-ranked Scarlet Knights are coming off a 3-0 win at Notre Dame Saturday. St. John’s also hosts Big East rival Villanova Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.