COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — There has been a lot said about a new era for the US national team since Jurgen Klinsmann’s appointment as head coach. Those much-heralded changes were on full display in Colorado this week as Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz was called up for upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium.
Larentowicz, who knew only that he was on the preliminary roster for the squad, told MLSsoccer.com he was shocked to actually get a personal call from Klinsmann confirming the call-up. Prior to his first and only US cap against Chile during the Bob Bradley era last January, he had simply received an e-mail from the team.
“To get a personal call from him was kind of bizarre,” he said. “There was a voicemail and my thoughts were, ‘You have to be kidding me.’ He was very upbeat and very excited.”
Larentowicz wasn’t the only one within the Rapids organization to get a call. Head coach Gary Smith also said he was delighted to personally speak to Klinsmann, as well as incoming US assistant Martín Vásquez, about Larentowicz.
“They called me directly, which is very nice, because in three-and-a-half years I hadn’t heard from anyone,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “So there is a little change there, which is great news.”
Smith said he liked the interest in his player that Klinsmann and his team showed, not only on the soccer side of things but on a personal level as well. He hopes the communication will continue to be a two-way street.
“They sounded like they were very keen on finding out about the individual, about the workload, the schedule, about his characteristics,” he said. “What I am hoping is we will get some feedback on the workload he’ll have had. In the past, I’ve never ever known what they’ve done with the national group. At least now, I can hopefully work that out for the player when he comes back.”
Getting details about Larentowicz’s workload with the national team is even more important given the Rapids’ hectic schedule. Colorado are entering a two-week break after a run that saw them play five matches in 15 days. After the break, the pace will be equally relentless, with six games in 19 days.
Larentowicz will be one of four Rapids players representing their national teams in the next several days. The other call-ups are Sanna Nyassi (Gambia), Omar Cummings (Jamaica) and Steward Ceus (Haiti).
Smith said it’s not ideal his central midfielder won’t be getting any rest during the break, but he is delighted at his call-up and hopes he will benefit from it.
“The call-up for your country is one that everyone is waiting for and I am sure he is extremely proud to get it,” Smith said. “He’s been playing very well and he deserves it so, as much as I want him to have a rest, it’s the next step in his career to try and secure a post in an ever-changing international group.
"If everything goes well with their national teams, that can be just as much of a lift. If they play well, they get themselves a more stable position in the national group. It’s a feel-good factor.”
Larentowicz said he is excited to be back in the national-team mix in a new era.
“You can see that Jurgen is ready to jump into it,” he said. “He’s willing to talk and give feedback and that can only be good for the player.”