This offseason, UZ and Ben will give short reviews on the play of all Colorado Rapids players who received a decentamount of time on the pitch during the season along with a season grade. Starting with Goalkeepers and thenmoving up the field as necessary from defenders to forwards, today Bulldog Ben is going to write about Jeff Larentowicz
Name: Jeff "The Ginger Ninja" Larentowicz
Minutes Played: 2617
Stats: 4 Goals, Assists 1
Laren-to-wicz. Who? Laren-to-wicz. Who? He's our Ginger Ninja. He's our Ginger Ninja...
When people ask me to say why Colorado was able to pull of a spectacular run through the MLS Cup Playoffs, why they were able to finally get in, and able to keep it together through those extremely tight competitions, I say that it comes down to a lot of different factors. But if they ask if I had one player in particular whose addition changed the game for Colorado, I would say it had to be Jeff Larentowicz.
Jeff Larentowicz has a complex role on the Rapids, but he doesn't spend much time up near the goal, which often leads him to be overlooked in favor of the more exciting play of Omar Cummings, but he shouldn't be. Some people refer to him as simply a guy who is good in the tackle and a great midfield boss. But taking his defensive quality as his only quality is the biggest mistake that a manager could make when looking at X's and O's. Larentowicz may have had few assists on the year, but his job wasn't to get the pass across the goal, his job was to start the offensive sequence. As far as threading a ball through the midfield to get a dangerous offensive run started, there are few players in Larentowicz's class in MLS.
That isn't to say that the Ninja wasn't fantastic defensively, aside from a few off games of the 2010 season (I can think of a few during the Rapids Summer Slump that were particularly off), Jeff was an absolute rock. Not a hard tackler by nature, he and Pablo Mastroeni used the right amount of pressure and disruption to get an offense to cough up the ball. Then Jeff would thread the ball through to get the attack going the other way.
Larentowicz's solid play freed up Pablo Mastroeni to be more of a box-to-box roving destroyer, and allowed him to feel confident enough to push up more and take on a role that he seemed born to play. The midfield partnership of Larentowicz and Mastroeni was a testament not only to the tactical genius of Gary Smith and his staff, but also to the individual talent and experience of both Mastroeni and Larentowicz. And the results speak for themselves.
PLAYER RATING: 8.5