It is obvious to all Fire fans that the team is going through a period of change. There has been a lot of roster turmoil and that will probably continue for the foreseeable future. There is a young movement underway and more veterans are likely to leave. The Fire are also known to have a tight cap situation so veterans with high salaries are candidates to eventually leave the team.
One prime example of this is Jeff Larentowicz. Ever seen joining the Men in Red, Larentowicz has been reliable in the midfield but with a salary of $251,000 and at the age of 30, he is an easy target to be moved. Another reason this seems plausible is rise of the homegrown midfielder Chris Ritter, who is 22 years old and is paid $48,500. In the event of Larentowicz leaving the Fire, could Ritter take his spot? With the help of statistics from Squawka.com and MLSsoccer.com, we examine this notion.
So far this season, Larentowicz has made 15 appearances, all of those being starts, while Ritter has made just 5 appearances which were also all starts. Larentowicz has 3 goals and two assists while Ritter has none of either. Larentowicz has 7 key passes on the year while Ritter has 4 key passes. With both of them playing the more holding role of midfield, their offensive production does not matter much and most likely won't determine who plays.
Larentowicz has an average passing accuracy of 83% with an average pass length of 17 meters. Ritter passes at 81% with an average of 19 meters. This corresponds neatly to the observation that Ritter is slightly more adventurous in possession and flourishes in those moments when he can pick his head up and find a pass.
When going in duels (combination of tackles, fouls and headers), Larentowicz has won an average of 42% while Ritter comes out at 36%. Larentowicz barely edges out Ritter in headed duels with an average success rate of 58% compared to Ritter's 56%. Larentowicz averages 39% success rate in tackles while Ritter trails with only 25%. When looking at defensive actions (blocks, clearances and interceptions), Larentowicz once again wins with an average of 5 per game compared to Ritter's 2. Throughout the season, Ritter has received two yellows already and Larentowicz has not received any.
These numbers all point to the same conclusion: That Ritter is not the finished article defensively, and will likely need cover - either another defensive midfielder to share the load, or help from elsewhere in midfield - to control the opposition's Zone 14. Larentowicz, hardly a shutdown d-mid at this point in his career, is still measurably superior defensively to the rookie.
Chris Ritter is only 22 years old. He's only played in five MLS games. His sample size is small but impressive, nevertheless. Jeff Larentowicz is a steady, veteran midfielder in the league. You know what you are going to get out of him on the field. Over these few weeks, Ritter has put up respectable numbers when compared to Larentowicz.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Ritter's numbers change and possibly improve. How much change would their need to be for the Fire to consider cutting Larentowicz loose in the offseason? The $202,500 salary difference could certainly fill some other holes in the roster. That might be a tempting move when thinking what the team could do with that money.
What do you think? Can Ritter replace Larentowicz?