When Andy Dorman and Jeff Larentowicz step onto the field against each other Saturday night as the Revolution open the season at the Chicago Fire, it will be a sort of crashing together of eras.
Both players were part of the Revolution teams that played in the 2005, 2006, and 2007 MLS Cup title games. In 2008, Dorman left to pursue a career in Europe, eventually playing in the Scottish Premier League and lower English Leagues. Larentowicz was traded to Colorado two years later and won the league title there in his first year. This off-season, he signed with Chicago and is expected to wear the captain's armband against his former team. Meanwhile, Dorman is back, re-joining the Revolution in November via free transfer from Crystal Palace.
“For me I’ve played New England in the past since leaving but you recognize this is a new opportunity and obviously I’m back a part of this rivalry and viewing it from the other side," says Larentowicz. "Many players have changed but the games will still conjure up memories of the past.”
But one memory from the past that Larentowicz won't want to remember is his time warming the bench for the Revolution. Larentowicz didn't see much playing time until 2007, Dorman's last year. Until that point, the Revolution's 3-5-2 formation only had enough room for Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston, Dorman, and sometimes Jose Cancela in midfield. Once Dorman left, Ralston aged, and Cancela moved on, keeping the ball and transitioning from defense to offense came down to Joseph and Larentowicz in the middle of the field.
Dorman and Larentowicz are different in style of play, but similar in regard to their success as players. Dorman is a playmaker who stays right behind the forwards and makes smart, finessed passes. Larentowicz is the bulldozer in central midfield who wins the ball back and has an absolute cannon of a shot.
Career-wise, Dorman and Larentowicz exceeded expectations, getting picked up late in the league's drafting process. Getting picked low on draft days is no indication of success, as both players have accomplished plenty.
Dorman was one of the league's best midfielders by the time he decided to leave for Europe. He played in all of the Revolution's title games and helped the team win the 2007 U.S. Open Cup.
The Revolution's midfield needed to be re-configured after Dorman's departure, though slotting Larentowicz next to Joseph proved to be a viable solution. In fact, the Revolution haven't made the playoffs since they traded Larentowicz to Colorado in 2010. And that's partly because Larentowicz was a big contributor to the team that wasn't suitably replaced in the finals years of Steve Nicol as head coach, playing through injuries and creating key goals as the Revolution limped and squeaked into the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.
Chicago re-worked its offense this off-season and Larentowicz is expected to be one of the keys to sustaining possession and creating chances this year. But he and his new Fire teammates failed to impress last week, dropping the season opener 4-0 against the LA Galaxy.
Meanwhile Dorman wasn't listed as a starter in the possible lineup the Revolution distributed to media via email. But he may get the starting nod with midfielders Kelyn Rowe (groin) and Kalifa Cisse (knee) suffering from mild injuries and Chris Tierney (ankle) out.
Dorman played in a 3-5-2 under Steve Nicol last time he put on a Revolution jersey, though he will now need to establish himself in a 4-4-2 under his former Revolution teammate Jay Heaps, now the gaffer. And though the coach, formation, and team style have changed, the expectations for Dorman will remain the same.
Saturday evening will be a duel. Not just against former teammates and two of the best midfielders MLS has produced, but of two teams that are set to renew one of the league's oldest and most bitter rivalries.
Larentowicz and some of his new teammates reminisced about their best and worst moments of the Revolution-Fire rivalry. Not surprisingly, Larentowicz's memories were all from the lens of a Revolution player. But now a member of the Fire, Larentowicz will be looking for new kinds of memories. The first one could be winning the battle in midfield against Dorman, his well-respected former teammate, and leading his new team to victory as captain.
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