All the Colorado Rapids players involved in Friday’s opener against Chivas USA will have a mixture of nerves and relief, but this opener will be extra special for newcomer Jeff Larentowicz.
The game will mark the midfielder’s regular season debut for the Rapids after he was picked up by from New England in the preseason, along with Wells Thompson, in exchange for veterans Preston Burpo and Cory Gibbs.
The former Revs star has battled through a long and difficult left knee injury this preseason, but is expected to play some part in the Chivas game.
“The injury is good – not 100 percent yet,” Larentowicz said after training Tuesday. “It was tough to be patient about. The doctors told me to wait and make sure I was strong enough and I did, and I’m glad I did. I’m happy I didn’t come back sooner. I feel good and I’m ready for the start of the year.”
Head coach Gary Smith, who sees Larentowicz as a key figure in a strong central midfield which will also include Pablo Mastroeni, Nick LaBrocca and Mehdi Ballouchy, said the US national team squad member will be traveling to California this weekend.
Talking about both Larentowicz and key left-sided player, Colin Clark, Smith said: “Jeff and Colin will be, touch wood and the wind in our favor, part of that 18, which is great news for us. Their rehab has moved forward a gear and they are looking in good shape.”
Just how much playing time Larentowicz will get Friday is uncertain, but there is no doubt he will be a key player for the Rapids this year. The midfielder has slipped quietly into his new surroundings in Denver after years on the East Coast.
“It’s been good,” he said of his time so far in Colorado. “Everybody has been very accommodating. We haven’t spent the most time here, with travel and everything, so I haven’t gotten that comfortable with the city itself but, with the team and everything, the coaching staff, it’s been very good.”