FCD have healthy respect for Rapids' Larentowicz

FRISCO, Texas --- FC Dallas enter the MLS Cup with a healthy bit of knowledge and plenty of respect for the man who will likely play a vital role in deciding who comes away as champion: Jeff Larentowicz.

The veteran midfielder leads the Colorado Rapids into their first MLS Cup since 1997 against FC Dallas at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday (7:30 pm CT, ESPN).

“He’s a physical player. He doesn’t stop running. In the midfield, he’s a very physical presence and he’s a decent guy on the ball,” said FCD midfielder Daniel Hernandez, a teammate of Larentowicz with the New England Revolution from 2005-07. “He has a strong shot and is really good in the air. On set pieces, he’s one of their dangerous guys.”

Larentowicz scored both goals for Colorado in their 2-2 draw against FC Dallas on Oct. 9, two of four goals the midfielder has scored in his first season with the Rapids.

“He’s an intelligent player. He puts himself in good positions,” FCD center back Ugo Ihemelu said. “He reads the game very well. He’s hard on his tackles and can hit the crap out of the ball with some accuracy. He’s definitely dangerous on set pieces. He’s got good size, so he’s definitely dangerous on corners.”

Larentowicz has teamed with Rapids veteran Pablo Mastroeni to form perhaps the best midfield duo in the league, a primary reason Colorado are on the doorstep of the first league title in franchise history.

“I think he’s a piece that they’ve been missing, especially with Pablo,” Ihemelu said. “Pablo had a lot to do in there and would have to cover a lot of ground defensively. With Jeff in there, he gets to split that workload. Pablo already has a huge engine. He can do the work, but with Jeff in there to split things up, Pablo has more energy to get into the box.

“I think that’s why he [Mastroeni] scored some goals this year,” Ihemelu added. “Those two in there have really helped their center backs make it hard to break that defense down.”

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