Jeff Larentowicz
Brian Kersey Chicago Fire

Return leg in Philadelphia serves as a homecoming for Fire midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. -- For Jeff Larentowicz, Saturday’s game at Philadelphia will be a homecoming.

Though born in Pasadena, Calif., Larentowicz grew up in Philly, leading Chestnut Hill Academy to back-to-back Inter Academic League titles in 2001 and 2002 and helping renowned club powerhouse FC Delco Arsenal to two USYSA titles in 2002-2003.

With all the past glories in the City of Brotherly Love, Larentowicz had to wait five years into his MLS career for the chance to return to play professionally in his hometown. When he returns now, its always special.

“It’s always nice,” he said. “Every year it seems like my mom gets in touch with someone I haven’t seen in a while and they come to a game. My immediate family goes to a lot of games on the east coast but this one’s extra special because it brings a lot of people out.”

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Expected to start in Saturday’s game against the Union, should he play, it would mark his fourth match against the Union in Philadelphia. It’s also worth noting that he’s never lost an MLS game here, going 2-0-1 with the Colorado Rapids in previous visits to his hometown.

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 Larentowicz was denied the chance to play against his hometown club at Toyota Park last week after serving a suspension for the controversial red card he saw in the side’s 2-0 loss at Montreal on April 27.

The 1-0 home defeat to Philly was the first game Larentowicz had missed since joining the Fire in January.

The Fire vice-captain admitted it was difficult to watch from the stands as his team dominated but eventually fell to the Union.

“If you’re playing all the time the only perspective you have is on the field. If you’re up in the stands you see things a little differently and you can kind of see the game developing on a different level.

“It’s bad because you’re not involved and it’s hard to watch the team perform well and not get three points. I thought the effort from everyone was really good but unfortunately the game was a bit cruel for us.”

Saturday’s defeat had a similar feel to the team’s 1-0 home opening loss to New England. The Fire dominated but were caught out by defensive errors in both matches and eventually dropped all three points.

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If the Fire had those two games in the win column, they’d be on 13 points and sitting fifth inside the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“Both are games where we had chances in the first half to score and unfortunately we didn’t. The longer an away team can hang around at 0-0, the more chances they have to steal the game late and that’s the way it went on both occasions.

“You can’t really say ‘what if?’ All you can do is look at the game and figure out what you can do to get three points next time.

“For us, that’s capitalizing on the opportunities we get early on.”