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BTL: The most influential "non-Magee" of 2013...

20 June 3:03 pm

BTL: The most influential "non-Magee" of 2013...

By Ben Schuman-Stoler

With all the talk of "Magic" Mike Magee and his ridiculous five goals in five games since joining the Fire, it was always likely that other players would be overlooked.
 
But as much as Magee (or maybe because of him) we’ve seen other players step up and contribute to the Fire’s season-saving June. Midfielders like Alex and Daniel Paladini mitigated the effects of losing Logan Pause, defenders Jalil Anibaba and new addition Bakary Soumare stabilized what was a less than sturdy backline, and up front, Patrick Nyarko, Chris Rolfe, and Sherjill MacDonald selflessly put in the work supporting Magee.
 
But perhaps the most influential non-Magee on the Fire this season has been Jeff Larentowicz. The veteran was brought in this offseason and immediately won a spot in the starting line-up, a spot he proved he deserved with his signature tackling, distribution, and even a game-winning goal early in the season.
 
 
On Wednesday night against Colorado, Larentowicz showed once again why he’s become the platform on which the Fire’s recent surge was built (see his heat map to the right).
 
It was his harrying and tackling that helped change the momentum of the game after Colorado’s early goal (see his 30th minute tackle, and the effort he put in to win a goal kick in his own box a few minutes earlier). Later in the second half, as Colorado pressed to equalize, his header just wide was the Fire’s best chance. 
 
Maybe one ten minute period showed it best: His skill in the 71st minute won the Fire a corner and diffused pressure; his block in the 78th maintained the Fire’s lead.
 
And just like his eagerness this season has led to some ups and downs (including that unfortunate red card at Montreal), his early yellow card for diving in a little over zealously threatened to hamper his effectiveness. Would he hesitate to tackle out of fear of his second yellow?
 
Nope. It seems like he doesn’t let anything shake him off. We’ve talked about “Magee Face”, that expression of all the emotions a soccer game can summon in a person, all the heartbreak and endeavor and passion. “Larentowicz Face” is the opposite. It’s stone cold. It’s not hashtag material. It’s focused and determined and sort of scary.

 


 

That’s why his reaction after his miss in the second half was so endearing. As Fire fans and the My50 announcers celebrated what looked like a goal from certain angles, Larentowicz reacted with unadulterated frustration and anger. In his mind, he should’ve scored, he knew he had it, and as a leader by example, he couldn’t contain the flash of the expectations he has of himself. It was a totally honest moment.
 
As the game Wednesday progressed, Fire fans licked their lips at the prospect of Magee (and later MacDonald), Nyarko, and Rolfe running through wide open spaces in the Colorado defense.
 
But none of the counterattacks panned out. In the end, what defined the end of the game was a little bit of luck, sure, but mostly it was the plucky work of the Fire as a unit, withstanding the pressure and closing it out. Nobody represents that more than Larentowicz, and you could read it on his face.
 
Onwards. Three points. Who’s next?

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.