MLS in Focus: Orlando’s Cyle Larin

image, orlandocity.com

by RYAN BRISTER
MLS Writer

This is an enlightened age for soccer in North America. The best leagues in the world are on television every weekend. The internet allows for discussion and analysis of the game that used to be impossible to find. Teams on this side of the Atlantic are now named “Football Club” and “Soccer Club” instead of “Kicks” or “Clash.” The sport is no longer a novelty, and the gimmicks it once required to survive are now frowned upon.

So of course, no enlightened American soccer fan can look at college soccer without some level of bemusement. The college soccer season crams about twenty games into three months, and NCAA rules limit the training players can receive in the spring. The games themselves are contested with unlimited substitutions and a clock that counts down.

How can young players possibly prepare for the professional level in this environment? MLS has gone so far as to create USL affiliates in the hopes of bridging the perceived developmental gap for players of that age level.

But perception isn’t quite reality. Despite its flaws the college game can still produce players capable of jumping right into MLS. You don’t have to look any further than to the top pick of this January’s draft.

Cyle Larin has four goals already for Orlando, and at just 20-years-old, he’s a bright prospect for the Canadian national team. He’s been called up again for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Dominica, alongside the 2014 Rookie of the Year, Tesho Akindele.

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That was Larin’s first goal in MLS. It’s not a work of art. Really, none of his goals are that spectacular.

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What Larin provides the Lions, though, is a knack for being in the right place at the right time. That phrasing implies that there’s a bit of luck to it, but getting yourself in good positions is a skill and an instinct for goalscorers. You can build a career on that. Ask Chris Wondolowski.

That video features all 27 goals from Wondo’s record-tying season in 2012. None of them will make your jaw drop — which is the point. It’s far too early to declare 20-year-old Larin the Canadian Wondolowski, but he’s off to a promising start.

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Without doing anything too impressive, Larin leads Orlando in goals from open play. He benefits from having teammates like Kaka (see above) who can help provide him with the ball in dangerous areas. In return, he gives them the reliable finishing they couldn’t seem to find in the opening weeks of the season.

For Cyle Larin, he is in the right place at the right time — and that not only goes for his positioning, but also his for his place with the Lions.


Larin has been well worth the number one pick, but he’s just part of a draft class that is making an impact. You might have seen the 21st pick, Ignacio Maganto on Sunday with a volleyed goal and a backheel assist for the Galaxy. 6’7″ Swede Axel Sjoberg has been a stalwart in Colorado’s defense. Khiry Shelton, Fatai Alashe, and Matt Polster have all made significant contributions to their respective teams.

In all, eight of the 21 first round picks already have at least four starts under their belt. That’s the same total as last year’s draft, though we’re barely a third of the way through the season. And now, those who aren’t ready for MLS have been able to get valuable playing time on loan in the USL.

College soccer has plenty of flaws. There are aspects that need to be improved, and some that need to be overhauled completely. But it remains, for now at least, an important source of talent for MLS.