Chicago Fire veteran Jeff Larentowicz's listed position never changed last year, but the central midfielder's role changed with the wind in 2013.
At various times throughout the season, he played in central midfield behind Joel Lindpere, in a more attacking role alongside Logan Pause, in a give-and-take partnership with Arévalo Ríos, and behind Alex, who would take on a more advanced role.
But at the start of 2014, Larentowicz has a defined role in Frank Yallop's 4-1-4-1 formation, playing behind Alex, connecting the midfield with the back four.
“It's definitely different,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “Last year we played more of a 4-4-2. This year, I'm going to be sitting a little bit behind and working with the back four, and I'm going to have guys in front of me that are going to be stepping out to pressure, so Alex will be more in front of me with another forward/midfielder, so it's going to be slightly different.”
The reduced defensive role for the second central midfielder adds an onus on the wide midfielders to recover the ball before pushing forward.
That shift, midfielder Patrick Nyarko said, will make the Fire a more offensive team.
“It's a little bit different at least for us wide guys, because we're used to playing all the way out wide,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com, "and we have to vary it a little bit, playing a little bit more inside, and then defensively, helping the defensive midfielder to recover the ball when we're on defense.
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“Frank wants it to be a high-intensity kind of game where we're squeezing teams, and trying to dispossess the ball as quickly as we can and then just attack. It's just that mentality, to focus on pinning other teams to one side of the field, and then trying to win possession as quickly as we can and attacking. From speaking to Frank, he wants us to be a little more offensive this year,” Nyarko explained.
For Larentowicz, simply knowing his role and having set responsibilities is a breath of fresh air after his position shuffled from game to game last season.
“Everyone wants to go on the field and know their role, I think that's how good teams become great teams, is that everyone tries to fill their role, and doesn't try to do too much outside of that, because that's when you kind of get in trouble. A large part of the beginning of the preseason has been learning a new formation, learning what their roles entail, and then becoming more and more comfortable with that and building on it.”