BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Veteran Jeff Larentowicz will not be resting on his laurels after joining an elite band of field players who have broken the 300-game mark in MLS.
Reaching 400 games is his next goal, and seemingly with plenty of gas in the tank at 32 years old, few would bet against the uncompromising Chicago Fire captain to reach that, as yet, untouched milestone.
Larentowicz joined a group of 30 field players to break the 300-game mark when he led the Fire in their 4-0 defeat at D.C. United last Sunday. And although there were few positives to take from a disappointing loss that confirms the Fire’s status as MLS’s bottom club for 2015 with an 8-19-6 (30 points) record, the center back was proud to join former Colorado Rapids teammates Tyrone Marshall (337) and Pablo Mastroeni (334) as one of the league’s most consistent performers.
“It felt good, it was a goal of mine and something that I wanted to do,” Larentowicz, who has averaged 30 games in each of his 10 years, told MLSsoccer.com. “I specifically remember being in Colorado and seeing Pablo and Tyrone Marshall get theirs and being recognized. I saw those guys as stalwarts of the league and guys that were around and dependable, and that’s what I wanted to be. So Sunday, the result aside, I was happy with the achievement.”
Larentowicz has a ways to go to catch current field player appearance leader Kyle Beckerman’s tally of 379, and counting, but he has no plans of stopping.
“I’ve been fortunate to be healthy and a part of teams’ plans,” Larentowicz, who was born in Pasadena, Calif., but grew up in West Chester, Pa., told Chicago-Fire.com. “I’ve had coaches that took a chance on me and I never looked back. Four-hundred is the goal, but we’ll see what happens.”
And game No. 301, Sunday at home against the New York Red Bulls (7 pm ET; ESPN3), will have some #DecisionDay importance.
The Fire have history with the Red Bulls in season finales, with the final game of the 2013 season carrying heavy implications for both teams. A win in that game for the Fire would have sent them to the playoffs. However, a 5-2 humbling at Red Bull Arena laid rest to that as the Red Bulls went on to claim the Supporters’ Shield.
Sunday’s clash of the Eastern Conference’s top and bottom sides gives Fire interim head coach Brian Bliss’ men the opportunity to exact some revenge, with the Red Bulls once again eyeing Supporters’ Shield honors but with Western Conference leaders FC Dallas poised to capitalize if they can’t pull off a win at Chicago’s Toyota Park, a venue in which RBNY have never won in 14 attempts (0-9-5).
“It certainly is something we think about, it’s something we talked about in our meeting,” Larentowicz admitted when asked if denying the Red Bulls the league’s top spot was to the fore of the Fire players’ minds. “The end of 2013 was a game that was fairly similar, trying to get into the playoffs and them shooting for the Supporters’ Shield, I believe. For us, we’re at home, I think to take something from the game, other than playing for yourself, for your pride, for your contract, is to take it away from them. We’ve beaten them at home this year, it’s always a good game, but that would be a good achievement for us.”
All of the Fire’s eight regular season victories have come on home turf, which included a 3-2 win over Jesse Marsch’s team on Aug. 26. And a win in the final game of the season is something Larentowicz and his teammates want to give the fans following such a disappointing season.
“The fans have endured a few tough seasons, so putting on a good performance is important,” the former New England Revolution and Rapids player said. “They still come out, they still want to see some things out of the players and it’s our job to give it to them.”
ALL-TIME REGULAR-SEASON APPEARANCES BY FIELD PLAYERS
1. Kyle Beckerman, 379
2. Steve Ralston, 378
3. Brad Davis, 367
4. Jeff Cunningham, 365
5. Davy Arnaud, 351
6. Brian Carroll, 344
7. Dwayne De Rosario, 343
8. Jaime Moreno, 340
9. Tyrone Marshall, 337
10. Landon Donovan & Pablo Mastroeni, 334
* = indicates active MLS players