Dante Polvara has all the tools required to be a success in Scottish football – that’s the view of Ben Pirmann, the man who helped Aberdeen’s midfielder get his career at Pittodrie back on track.
Polvara was facing an uncertain future in March 2023. He had struggled to hold down a regular place with the Dons following his move from Georgetown University in January 2022.
But the player who looked to be treading water in Scottish football 11 months ago has been transformed into a key member of the Aberdeen first-team squad this season.
So what happened?
The answer to that question can be found at USL Championship outfit Charleston Battery where Polvara had a four-month spell on loan last season.
Pirmann, who took charge at Charleston in November 2022, was in need of a spark at his club.
He found it in an Aberdeen midfielder – who was looking for a chance to hit the reset button and start afresh.
Pirmann said: “His college coach from Georgetown is a friend of mine and he had reached out to ask if we would be interested.
“We were on a bus ride home from a pre-season game where we weren’t good and we had some injuries, and I just said yes.
“I didn’t know the terms, but I wanted him on board, and from there I connected our president with his agent.
“Aberdeen and our club then spoke about how everything would work out.”
Dante Polvara had a fan in Charleston Battery head coach Ben Pirmann
It was not all plain sailing for Polvara on his temporary return Stateside. His confidence had been dented by his lack of game time in Scottish football.
But gradually he found his form and his confidence at his loan club in South Carolina – and Pirmann insists the midfielder’s qualities were clear for all to see.
Pirmann said: “His form dipped a wee bit, but I told him to rest, push and come back and he hit the reset button and came back to finish his time here really strong.
“We play 4-2-3-1 and he played the holding double-pivot.
“He played with a player from Newcastle ,who was more disciplined which allowed Dante to be a number eight and break the lines.
“We had planned on using him as a No.10, but he was so good coming from deep. He had really good length and his performance data was terrific.
“He’s quicker than you would expect a lanky 6ft 4in player to be.
“He’s also really technical, which means he can break the lines and start attacks from midfield.”
Charleston ‘tried to keep’ Aberdeen’s Polvara
It proved to be a perfect blend with Polvara helping kickstart a remarkable renaissance at the club which took Charleston all the way to the USL Championship final.
It may not have produced a fairytale ending, but Pirmann and his players came pretty close – with Polvara playing an integral part.
He said: “It is a disappointing ending if you don’t win it. We were 1-0 up in the final in injury time then lost on penalties.
“Out of the 24 teams in the league last year, we inherited the 24th-ranked team. If we had promotion and relegation, we would have been in the Second Division.
“Dante played a huge part in us having a great season and getting all the way to the cup final as we did before returning to Scotland on July 1.
“He played all 21 games while he was here. He played in three US Open Cup matches, which is our version of the FA Cup.
“We played two Division Three clubs and then we played Inter Miami before Lionel Messi had signed for them.”
Polvara did so well for Charleston, Pirmann wanted to make his loan permanent.
He said: “He brought an even better level of professionalism and accountability to the group. On top of that, he is a good player who played centre midfield for us.
“We knew it would likely be a medium-term arrangement, but given how well he did, we tried to keep him.
“It wasn’t to be as Aberdeen wanted him back – and to be fair to Dante, he hit the ground running in pre-season back with Aberdeen.”
Dante Polvara’s Pittodrie impact is no surprise to Pirmann
The change in fortunes for Polvara following his stint back in the homeland has been dramatic.
From 11 appearances in his first 12 months in Scottish football, the 23 year-old has played 29 times for the Dons so far this season, scoring twice and providing five assists.
Polvara was on the field 464 minutes in an Aberdeen jersey prior to returning to the United States. Since returning, he has played more than 1,700 minutes this season.
His form for Aberdeen led to former Dons boss Barry Robson proclaiming 2024 will be the year everyone is talking about the powerful midfielder.
Pirmann is not surprised.
The Charleston coach said: “Good for him, he deserves it.
“We have structure and non-negotiables in our club which I can guarantee are similar to every club at every level all over the world.
“From there we enable our players to be the best version of themselves they can be.
“We have Europeans, Hispanic, African, Asian, you name it, in our squad, and I don’t coach them in a certain rigid way.
“But we do have our structure.
“And for Dante to go back to his parent club, and have the manager believe in him and back him to excel, doesn’t surprise me.
“He’ll be keeping his head down and doing what his boss says.
“He can play in a variety of roles. He can score, assist, defend, he’s tough and he’s good in the air.
“The Premiership in Scotland is beyond tough, so you have to be strong or you won’t last – you’ll be chewed up.
“It’s good to see his progression. He’s hitting the prime of his mental and physical capacity so to see him driving forward is fantastic.
“He’s got it in him to keep pushing on.”