As captain of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, Jeff Larentowicz has the sizeable task of assimilating the wealth of new talent the club has acquired during the offseason. He addressed that challenge and his own preparations for the season in a Q&A with Chicago-Fire.com:
How has camp been going? Any benefits to the club being secluded as it has been here in Norwich?
JL: I think it’s a good choice. At first it seemed like a long way to go but now that we’ve been here, I think it’s been good. It reminds me of teams in the past that would go overseas or to foreign countries where you don’t see an MLS team. It’s great, you have to rely on each other and it feels a lot better.
What is your role as a returning member of the squad and team captain? Do you feel added responsibility to ensure everyone is feeling part of the group?
JL: Definitely. With so many new guys -- I don’t think I’ve been on a team where it’s this new -- you want to make an effort to have everybody feel comfortable, because they’re going to be here and the best thing for you and the team is that they’re comfortable, so that they’re playing well. It’s been a bigger challenge but it’s been good, it’s been fun.
Was there anyone early in your career that took you under their wing in a similar manner?
JL: In New England it was sort of sink or swim. Figure it out or you’re going to be left behind. In Colorado I had Pat Noonan, because he was basically the only guy I knew that had been there before I got there. He was great to lean on and I actually stayed with him and his wife throughout preseason.
A few days ago you put together an ice-breaking exercise. What was that about and how do you think that went?
JL: I can’t take the credit, we were going to do something with the new guys, but Jon Busch suggested we have a Q&A or a time where you get to know everyone by fielding some questions. We realized a day before we did it that the new guys and the old guys are about the same. It wasn’t just where the old guys had to get to know old guys, everyone needed to get to know everyone. So we did everybody, including staff and coaches. It was a lot of fun. Even older guys, who’ve been playing with some of their teammates for years, got something new out of it.
You took a knock and have been limited in your training for precautionary reasons. How are you feeling?
JL: I feel good. I think this has been a really good week. The hardest part is to convince yourself that something’s going on because this is a really exciting time to come back and finally be able to play, and when you can’t, you try to push through it. But you have to tell yourself it’s best to get healthy and then play. It was tough in the beginning but I’m happy that I’ve taken this week, worked with the coaches and training staff to get myself back.
Has there been anyone in the squad, either new or returning, who has surprised you in any way during camp?
JL: Of the returning guys I think that Harry [Shipp] has looked good. It’s not surprising, more expected, but I trained with him a bit in the offseason and you could tell how badly he’s wanted it, how hard he’s trained, and it shows. Of the new guys, I’ve gotten to know Eric Gehrig, he’s a guy who I see with somewhat of a similar path as myself. He’s been good to watch, he works really hard, and he’s the type of attitude we want here. He’s the type of guy I’m surprised Columbus let go, but we are more than happy to have him.
How have you been spending your downtime here in Norwich?
JL: I’m rooming with Chris Ritter. Last night we watched a lot of soccer to close the weekend. For me, it’s been a lot of FaceTime and Skype’ing back home with my son and my wife, passing the time with some movies when I can stay awake. Chris and I were roommates last year, so it’s been really easy. I watched a movie that I had seen before but not in a long time, a movie called “Mean Streets,” one of Martin Scorsese’s first movies. It’s really good but it took a couple days, like I said it’s hard to keep your eyes open at the end of the day.
What excites you the most about 2015?
JL: It’s a cliché and a banal statement, but you start at zero and everyone else is starting at zero. Not only when you look at the standings but when you look at our team, everyone should feel like they’re starting from zero and that’s why the intensity of the camp has been so good, because everyone should feel like they’ve got a shot. When the quality is really high from player to player, and everyone feels like it’s an open field for them to get into the team, it raises the level and that’s what we need to compete. That’s why it’s been good that we’re here, it’s just us, we’re on an island and we’ve got to work it out. It’s been really good, I’m excited for this year and I think people in Chicago should be as well.
After seven days of training in Norwich, England, the Fire move on London this week to complete the overseas portion of its training at the home of Premier League side Queens Park Rangers.