Connolly: Dorman a diamond in the rough
When the 2004 SuperDraft moved into the late rounds, Andy Dorman couldn't stand to watch anymore. He was just too nervous. Even after playing well at the MLS Player Combine earlier in the month, the Boston University senior didn't have any expectations of getting drafted last January. So he went to the gym and got in a workout. Finally, one of his friends came barging in and told him he was selected by the New England Revolution.
That was the good news. The bad news was that 57 players were selected in front of him by other Major League Soccer clubs, and he was only a few picks away from not making the cut at all. From the outside, it appeared like your classic "take a flier on the local boy" type of selection that happened at the very end of most drafts, no matter which sport you're talking about. It also made one heck of a nice story that Dorman grew up as a die-hard Liverpool supporter only to be given a chance by one of the legendary club's best players of all time in Revs coach Steve Nicol.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Both Nicol and former assistant coach John Murphy had seen Dorman play in person several times and were convinced that he was just a hidden gem hiding within the America East conference.
"You could see some talent there," said Nicol. "I knew he could help us."
And that's exactly what Dorman has done this year for the Revolution. While the 24-year-old from Flintshire, Wales, has only amassed two starts and a grand total of 392 minutes throughout the regular season and the playoffs, the sixth-round selection has seen the field in 22 of 32 matches and has played a vital role as a second-half substitute.
He's coming off a performance that saw him create what ended up being the deciding goal in the 2-1 win on aggregate goals over Columbus in the Eastern Conference semifinals when he drew two Crew defenders in the box before sliding across a pass to Taylor Twellman for the goal. It came only five minutes after Dorman entered the match for Jose "Pepe" Cancela, which is apropos considering the impact he has made during his short stints of playing time throughout the 2004 season.
"Andy's an intriguing player," said Nicol after a brief training session on Tuesday as the Revolution prepare for their Eastern Conference Final match with D.C. United on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. "He has some qualities not too many players have. He has a knack for making that forward run and timing it well. His instinct is to make that run."
In reality, Dorman is supposed to be more of a defensive replacement because of his ability to cover a lot of ground in the midfield. Playing defense and helping the Revs either maintain a lead, as was the case when he came in for Cancela during Game 1, or churn out a tie on the road like last weekend is main assignment. But Nicol realizes that he can be a weapon on offense when the situation calls for it.
"When it's on," said Nicol, "we're not going to cut someone's legs off."
Getting in on the attack is something Dorman has done his whole life. Whether he was playing for clubs back home in Chester or Wrexham, or later with the Flintshire Schoolboys (the de-facto Wales under-18 national team minus players who are training outside the country with other professional clubs), he's always been a playmaker around the goal. It continued at Boston University, a school that Dorman choose over Penn State, Franklin Pierce and SUNY Oneonta among others back in 2000. As a Terrier, he scored 22 goals to go with 37 assists over his four years on Commonwealth Avenue.
It took him awhile to believe he could play at the MLS level, though, as it wasn't easy for him to break in with a team that he realistically wasn't supposed to make.
"When we were at training in the preseason, that's when I was most nervous," said Dorman, whose parents are both from England. "You look around and there's guys like Joe-Max Moore, Taylor Twellman and Carlos Llamosa. It probably took me two months to settle in."
What helped him the most, he said, were the consecutive starts he got against Dallas and Kansas City in the middle of June. It helped him settle down and showed him he belonged.
Now that he's further proven himself on the professional level, Dorman isn't simply satisfied with being a part-time player. In fact, he aspires to one day run the show from the middle of the field for the Revs.
"I like the idea of playing on both sides of the ball," he said.
Added Nicol: "Absolutely, his choice is to play in the middle of the park. And he's clearly pushing for a place on the (starting) team."
That's probably for next season, though. As of the moment, the 4-5-1 system that Nicol has been playing has been successful, as has having fresh legs off the bench in the form of Dorman. Whether the Revs are up, tied or down a goal or two in the second half against United, Nicol will likely turn to a player who reminds Revs fans of conquering heroes Dave Roberts and Doug Mientkiewicz as athletes who know their roles during the playoffs.
"Coming on in the second half is not too hard," said Dorman. "I come out and run my heart out for 20 minutes."
Hopefully, for Dorman, he'll have two more chances to do just that in 2004.
Marc Connolly writes for ESPN.com and several other publications. This column runs each Wednesday on MLSnet.com and Marc can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs