FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz spent the past four seasons controlling and patrolling central midfield together for the Revolution.
The successful partnership ended after New England traded Larentowicz to Colorado as part of a four-player swap in January. Once the deal went down, Joseph and Larentowicz likely kept a careful eye on their first meeting as adversaries and waited for the chance to play against each other for the first time.
They probably didn't count on the fact that Joseph isn't expected to play against the Rapids Saturday night, according to Revolution boss Steve Nicol.
Joseph participated in a full training session on Friday morning for the first time since tweaking a persistent right hip flexor strain in a 4-1 win over Toronto FC on April 10. Although he worked through the practice with his teammates, Joseph labored as he maneuvered around the field. The veteran midfielder admitted afterward that he still felt the effects of his layoff and a series of related knocks he acquired as he compensated for the original injury.
“I'm not too good,” Joseph said. “This is the first time I've actually run in two weeks. We'll see what happens today. It feels a little sore already, but it's just a matter of trying to treat it and seeing what the chances are for tomorrow.”
The update apparently answered the one question Larentowicz asked frequently this week: whether Joseph would be fit to play. Larentowicz didn't mince words when apprised of the situation.
“That stinks,” Larentowicz said after the Rapids trained on the Gillette Stadium turf on Friday afternoon. “It really does. I was looking forward to that. He was the one I was really looking forward to playing against, just for fun. I think it would be really competitive and probably not really, really good-natured, but fairly good-natured. We would have a good time, but that is disappointing.”
If Joseph isn't able to play, the central midfield duo will have to wait until the Revs travel to Colorado on Sept. 18 for their first meeting.
The past three meetings between the two teams have ended in 1-1 draws and Revolution coach Steve Nicol expects a similarly tight affair Saturday.
“I think it'll be the exact same as it was last year,” Nicol said. “It's going to start off as a strong man's game for sure. Like in every game, you need to win the fight. I'm sure that's what they're going to be doing. They're going to be big and strong and try to squeeze us.”
With Larentowicz and former U.S. national team midfielder Pablo Mastroeni in central midfield, New England will have to try to play out of that pressure to facilitate the Revolution's passing game. Joseph's absence heaps pressure on Joseph Niouky and Pat Phelan to compete with the Rapids' central midfield and funnel the ball to creative outlet Marko Perovic.
“Ultimately, we play passing football,” Revolution forward Kheli Dube said. “As soon as we pass the ball, we know [we're going to get forward]. We need to get the ball and get forward. If we're not passing the ball, there's no way we're going to get chances.”
In order to create those chances and improve upon a sputtering attacking performance in last Saturday's 2-0 defeat at San Jose, Nicol may have to add another offensive option to counter Colorado's conservative style on the road. If he chooses to supplement his attack, Perovic would likely drop into midfield with Dube coming in up top.
* Edgaras Jankauskas has recovered from a right calf strain and could make his first appearance of the season against the Rapids. Nicol said the experienced striker still needed to find his full fitness, but noted that he would definitely feature in the squad for the game.
* Emmanuel Osei will miss his second consecutive match with a right foot injury. Osei dropped out of the starting lineup shortly before kickoff last Saturday and didn't train this week. Darrius Barnes will continue to partner with Cory Gibbs in central defense.
* Gibbs and Preston Burpo arrived in New England as part of the Larentowicz deal and both will start, while the fourth member of the trade -- Colorado midfielder Wells Thompson -- could see time off the bench for the Rapids.
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com and serves as a contributing editor for Goal.com USA. Kyle can be reached at email@example.com.