VANCOUVER, B.C. – If there were any worries about a sophomore slump for Cyle Larin, the 20-year-old reigning MLS Rookie of the Year has been quick to dispel them. A sensational start to the new season has seen the Canadian hit three goals and add an assist in his three matches for Orlando City so far this year.
Larin is now hoping he can transfer his clinical club play to international level and continue his rich vein of goalscoring form for Canada as they take on Mexico in an important World Cup qualifying doubleheader on Friday (10 pm ET, TSN, RDS, UniMás, UDN) and Tuesday.
The striker’s form has been mixed for his country. His record of four goals in 15 appearances for Canada looks solid and includes the vital match-winner against Honduras in Vancouver in November, but it’s a record that could have had several more goals on it had he been more clinical with the chances presented to him.
It’s a fact Larin is well aware of and he’s confident it won’t be long before he’s hitting his full stride with his country.
"I don't think it's different,” Larin said of making the move from club to international level. “It's just that I'm used to playing with players in Orlando and I've got to get back used to playing with players here [with Canada].
“I kinda got to think differently when we're playing different formations sometimes. It's a little different but once I get used to these players, and we've been together for a while now, I think Friday we'll get a couple of goals."
Canada has struggled to find a regular goalscorer for a number of years now, once managing just one solitary goal in 13 matches in 2013. It’s gotten better of late and Canadian teammate Will Johnson is delighted to finally have a player of Larin's caliber leading the country’s attack.
"He gives us something different,” the Toronto FC midfielder enthused. “A reliable presence. He fights, he works hard, he can score goals. He gives us a steady number 9 that we haven't had in a while.
“We've rotated guys in and out of that position. We've tried to play various types of attacking players in that position but now we have a steady player that you know exactly what you're going to get from him, and that's a high quality center forward.”
Larin made a big splash during his rookie MLS season, finishing the year 17 goals, but appears to be getting better so far this season. He credits a big part of his development to the influence provided by his Orlando City teammate Kaká, and he wants to use what he’s taught him to excel now on the international stage.
"He's been very big in my development,” Larin said of the veteran Brazilian. “He teaches me a lot of things on and off the field. A lot of the things I do this year, I learned from him. Getting my head up more, thinking quicker, and it's just helped me out through my career.”
For now, Larin is fully focused on helping Canada achieve something they haven’t done in nearly 20 years, reach the last round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the exclusive Hexagonal. Getting anything from the upcoming pair of matches against Mexico would go a long way towards that.
"It would mean a lot,” Larin admitted. “If we can get to the Hex, it would be very big for Canada and it would be very big for me. I've always wanted to play in the Hex or even the World Cup. The most important game is Friday and we can't look past this game.
"We have the right players to go out in this game and win and get a point or three points. We have talented players in this team. Young, old players. I think it's a great mix and we can go and do something special with this group."