Jeff Larentowicz has had to move around recently, playing for three different clubs in the past three years. So getting to settle in to year two in Atlanta was a welcome change.
“You have the same coaches, you’re living in the same place, it’s much easier on your family,” he says. “The soccer side is much easier to pick up. There’s no real transition, you just kind of move back into the old routines.”
While the growing familiarity and comradery is helpful, this team is miles ahead of where they were at this point last year.
“I think everybody last year wanted to give each other a chance, trying to get to know each other, using the time to work on the social aspect of it. This year it’s more about getting down to the soccer and getting to play. It’s still a bit early so I’m sure the new guys have a lot of adapting to do since we’ve kind of been on our own. But once we get to Charleston and they see the level of the league and the play, that growth will continue.”
As opposed to last year where the team was forming on the fly, this year’s squad has a solid foundation forged on the field in year one. Now it’s about tweaking and improving, while integrating new players into the squad. That includes a potential midfield partner for Larentowicz in U.S. international Darlington Nagbe.
“Darlington is a great addition, really good guy, fantastic player and you want to have people like that on your team. I’m not sure exactly about my role yet, haven’t done a ton of building up with eleven players yet. I’ve bounced around a bit.”
But Larentowicz says the team is fully focused on building on their impressive first year and competing for the title this season.
“There were times we played on the road last year and let points slip or didn’t really shut down a game when we needed a draw. I think we did a very good job last year, but to go from being a playoff team to being a championship team you have to really be able to close out games and get through difficult stretches in the season.”
Larentowicz and his teammates will start their quest for an MLS Cup on the road against the Houston Dynamo before returning to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on March 11th for their home debut against the D.C. United. Tickets are still available, so make sure you’re there by reserving your spot here.