MARIETTA, Ga. -- The headlines for Atlanta United may be drawn to the South American influence on the team. But the less sexy aspect of Atlanta United’s squad is the foundation that the team is built upon: MLS experience.
Jeff Larentowicz, who sits in fourth place all-time in MLS appearances, perhaps best embodies this ethos as set forth by the club’s leaders. A career that stretches back to 2005, Larentowicz has won MLS Cup, in 2010 with the Colorado Rapids, reached the MLS Cup final three more times and has played in nine different postseason campaigns in his MLS tenure.
He is not on Twitter. Instagram, he doesn’t have time for. Snapchat? You must be joking. Larentowicz is all business, and it’s that attitude that he and his veteran teammates and manager are betting on to help drive Atlanta deep into the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“No, I'm focused on the team,” Larentowicz told media Wednesday when asked if he’s hoping to make the most of what might be his last legitimate opportunity to lift MLS Cup. “I want to win for Atlanta United. Whatever happens to me is irrelevant. I'm a servant of the club and I want to play and help the team win.”
Don’t mistake Larentowicz’s attitude for stubbornness or lack of adaptability. The 35-year old may not enjoy cell phones pointed at him while waiting at the terminal gate ahead of a road trip, but on the field, he’s doing everything he can to form a cohesive unit with his teammates that even includes brushing up on his Spanish. One of Larentowicz’s defensive partners, Argentina native Franco Escobar, said the American will speak Spanish to certain players to try to get his point across.
“He's a player who, even though we don't always understand each other perfectly when he's talking to me, he's telling me different things during a game,” said Escobar through a translator Wednesday.
It’s that kind of leadership that has made Larentowicz a critical cog for Tata Martino’s team. He’s the Five Stripes’ all-time leader in appearances (tied with Julian Gressel), and he's versatile, having played in central midfield in front of a back three, a double pivot central midfielder or as a center back.
“He's important for Tata and he's important for the team as well. He's a player who has a lot of experience and knows the league very well,” said Escobar. “He's always in the team because wherever you put him, you know he's going to perform well in that spot. That's what makes him so valuable.”