Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (18) reacts to a call from the referee during the match between NYC FC and Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday, April 15, 2018. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Reann Huber
Photo: Reann Huber

Atlanta United’s Larentowicz on verge of history

At some point in the next week, possibly as early as Sunday’s game against Orlando City, Jeffrey Adam Larentowicz will accomplish something done by only two other field players in MLS.

Larentowicz will make his 400th appearance in a game, joining an exclusive club whose members are Kyle Beckerman and Chad Marshall. The requirements are focus, professionalism, determination…and a bit of luck.

“I think a lot goes into it, frankly,” Larentowicz said. “Timing is a huge thing for me. Finding a coach that takes a chance for you. Having the ability to develop in a league that’s meant to develop American players is important at that time.

“Just also working your socks off whenever you come in.”

The journey to 400 seemed so unlikely that Larentowicz said 400-game Larentowicz would have nothing to say to 1-game Larentowicz.

The first game, by the way, was the only game he played his rookie season in 2005. It wasn’t even a game. It was a minute. Sixty seconds that foretold a job next year perhaps selling fertilizer while wearing the suit his mom bought for him in case soccer didn’t work out. 

Talk about motivation.

That’s how much Larentowicz pushes himself.

The 2005 season ended.

Larentowicz was sitting in an airport bar when New England Revolution manager Steve Nicol told him that he wanted him to come back in 2006. 

There was a hitch. 

Larentowicz made $16,500 as a rookie. Full-time pizza drivers could make more. 

Nicol wanted him to return as a Senior Developmental Player. The MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time details that a Senior Developmental Player meant a minimum non-guaranteed salary of $1,375 per month in 2006. Larentowicz still had no guarantee of employment and potentially less of what already was a meager income.

Larentowicz reasoned that if that was the opportunity, he’d take it, so he accepted Nicol’s offer.

“Probably extremely poor negotiating on my part,” Larentowicz said.

Larentowicz said he would give himself 10-12 more months.

He began playing more in 2006, with 19 starts as part as of 26 appearances. Larentowicz has never appeared in less than 26 games in a season since.

He acknowledges that he has gotten lucky.

The Reserve Division that Larentowicz was part of as a Senior Developmental Player in 2006 was disbanded before the 2009 season. If he had been a rookie in 2009 when the Reserves were dissolved, he said no team would have picked him up. Career likely over.

But Larentowicz worked. And worked.

Along the way, Larentowicz won two MLS Cups with Colorado in 2010 and Atlanta United last season as a player on teams that have appeared in five title games. He won the U.S. Open Cup with New England in 2007. 

Larentowicz developed a reputation as a pro’s pro.

“A guy like him, watching his first training session, how hard he trains and how mentally and physically strong he is,” new teammate Justin Meram said. “In his circle, (they think) he could probably reach 500.”

No field player (non-goalkeeper) has reached 500. Beckerman (472) might.

But first comes 400. 

After playing Orlando, Atlanta United will play at Vancouver, at New York Red Bulls and at Real Salt Lake in the next two weeks.

“Only a real professional can achieve that kind of stat,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “You can always count on him as a player and as a person.”

Larentowicz still looks fit. 

Larentowicz is still very motivated.

Larentowicz still has the suit.

“Funny thing about this is it requires a ton of focus,” he said. “If you don’t focus, you get found our pretty quickly.”

Larentowicz has passed that test almost 400 times.


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