BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Jeff Larentowicz produced a captain’s performance in an unfamiliar center back role in Wednesday’s scoreless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps, helping restore some pride to the Chicago backline following the Fire’s humbling last week in San Jose.
The Fire were crushed 5-1 at the Earthquakes last Wednesday, prompting Chicago head coach Frank Yallop to bench defenders Bakary Soumare and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and deploy regular midfielder Larentowicz alongside Patrick Ianni in the heart of the defense on Wednesday.
Dropping Larentowicz back worked like a charm against Vancouver, with the Fire limiting the ‘Caps to just two clear looks on goal as Chicago registered just their third shutout of the season.
“Switching it up is part of football, but I thought he did well tonight,” Yallop said when asked about Larentowicz after the match.
“Other than winning the game, it’s probably the most solid we’ve looked, limiting a pretty potent team to a couple of chances. Having said that, we didn’t look as dangerous as we have looked at home, at times, so it’s a fine line. We had chances, some good looks, but I was pleased with the overall defensive unit and I thought Patrick and Jeff did a good job.”
Larentowicz was commanding and composed alongside Ianni in a partnership that offers promise and options in a key area. In the 34th minute, he made an outstanding block to deny Vancouver midfielder Sebastian Fernandez from six yards with only Fire 'keeper Sean Johnson to beat.
“I thought he was great,” Johnson said of his all-action captain. “Jeff’s a leader and he leads by example and he’s great to have back there. You saw in the first half he blocked down a shot in front of me, it was one that was going to be difficult to deal with, but he throws himself into a difficult spot which is something you always want in a defender. He’s very aggressive and that’s great to have in a defender.”
Larentowicz was satisfied with his efforts, content with the clean sheet following last week’s nightmare in San Jose.
“Clean sheets are good,” he said. “However we want to play we have to work as a unit, whether it’s me, whether it’s anybody, you have to communicate, you have to work well with each other. I think that’s what we did tonight and it’s what we didn’t do in San Jose.”
“I don’t think it was just a backline issue, I think it was kind of everybody, but tonight, for sure, we worked together and communicated well. Good defenses make goalkeepers’ jobs easy and I think we did that for Sean tonight.”