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Atlanta United Final Exams: Jeff Larentowicz

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The veteran midfielder’s play down the stretch was key to Atlanta’s MLS Cup-winning campaign.

MLS: MLS Cup-Portland Timbers vs Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Larentowicz

Position: Defensive midfielder

Games Played: Regular season - 34 (33 starts); Playoffs - 4 (4 starts)

Goals: 1

Assists: 2

What went right this season?

While much will be made about Atlanta United signing players like Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Tito Villalba, etc., I’d say that the acquisition of Larentowicz is probably as important as any that the front office has made. Larentowicz is simply a steady hand in an important part of the pitch: whenever he is out there, you know that you’ll get a hard-working, solid effort each and every time. I can’t point to a single match where I could come away and say that he was truly awful.

With Eric Remedi signed as the new No. 6 for Atlanta United, Larentowicz’s role eventually morphed into a center back role alongside Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. It paid off in the end: during a playoff run that ended with Atlanta lifting MLS Cup, it allowed just 1 goal in 5 matches. Ironically, the 1 goal against - a meaningless one at that - was in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final at the Red Bulls with Larentowicz out of the lineup.

What does he need to improve on?

At this point, given Larentowicz’s age and the stage of his career he’s in right now, I’m not sure that he’ll make a massive leap in skill beyond where he currently is. And that’s OK. He - like any player in his role - had a couple of moments where his focus may not have been where it needed to be in the form of a wayward pass or missed mark, but the good news is that those moments were few and very far between.

What role will he play in 2019?

While Larentowicz’s contract option was picked up for next year, his exact role in Frank de Boer’s system remains to be seen. I’d be interested to see if de Boer drops him into the backline as Tata Martino did throughout his tenure here or uses him in a more active role. I’d suspect that more often than not he’ll be coming off the bench, especially in situations where the team needs to defend a lead. But knowing Larentowicz and his durability, you never know.

Overall Player Grade: B+