Jeff Larentowicz thriving in new challenge with Atlanta United

Jeff Larentowicz has a long list of accomplishments in his soccer career.

He has been on MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup winning teams, and he is one of few players to amass more than 300 starts in the league. He has also been called up to the United States Men’s National Team.

Prior to the 2017 season, there was one thing the 33-year-old midfielder hadn’t done yet: play for an expansion team in its inaugural season.

Atlanta United presented Larentowicz with that opportunity.

“When I signed with Atlanta my wife said, ‘this is something in your career that you’ve never done before, go to an expansion club,’” Larentowicz said. “It wasn’t like I was trying to tick that off the list, but I saw it as a challenge. I saw it as something new and different.”

Following four years at Brown University, Larentowicz was drafted by the New England Revolution in the 2005 MLS Supplemental Draft. During his five seasons with the Revolution, they made three consecutive trips to the MLS Cup but finished as runners-up each time.

He moved to the Colorado Rapids in 2010 and finally won an MLS Cup in his first season while earning an All-Star Team nomination. After three years in Colorado, he spent three more with the Chicago Fire and one with the LA Galaxy. Following the 2016 campaign, Larentowicz was a free agent.

By then, Atlanta United’s bold new strategy of attracting young, international players was well-known. With players like Miguel Almiron and Tito Villalba already signed to the club, acquiring Larentowicz provided the veteran presence that is crucial for an MLS expansion club in its inaugural season..

“When you’ve been in the league for a long time, you have a sense for what it’s like at other clubs,” he said. “Here, without any history, you don’t know what you’re really getting into, but there’s an excitement behind that. It’s lived up to it. It’s been all of the good things that I had assumed would be happening.”

Having played for some of the league’s most storied franchises, Larentowicz believes Atlanta United has already established itself as one of the league’s top organizations.

“Atlanta has done things in a way that compares with the elite clubs in the league,” Larentowicz said. “The facilities, the commitment to players and the fan base as well.

“It’s been really surprising and impressive to see the relationship between the club and the fans. Having never played together before, and to be playing now, it really seems like we go back further than six months. It seems like we’ve been here forever. The support we have at games, the intensity of the fans is honestly, I feel, unmatched in this league. That’s been really impressive and fun to be a part of.”

Along with captain Michael Parkhurst, Larentowicz has quickly become one of coach Tata Martino’s most important pieces, playing in 15 of the club’s 16 league matches while starting 13.

Recently, against his former team in Chicago, he started his 320th career match. This season, Larentowicz moved into sole position of ninth place all-time in MLS, surpassing MLS greats Landon Donovan, Pablo Mastroeni and Davy Arnaud.

Unaware of the milestones, Larentowicz found out he eclipsed Donovan when his mom called him after she read the news online.

“I thought about 300 games, but obviously not until I was well into my career once I kind of established myself,” Larentowicz said of his career goals. “I remember seeing certain guys pass 300. Steve Ralston and Pablo Mastroeni; I remember they presented him with a jersey in a frame on the field and

I said ‘that’s something I want to do.’ When I passed 300, I said 400. We’ll see. I feel good, you never know what can happen.”

Even with countless accolades in hand, Larentowicz remains driven to reclaim the MLS Cup title.

“I want to win the MLS cup again,” he said. “I want to win it here, and if we continue to pull things together we’ll possibly do that. This is a club that is built to do that.”