Connecticut star Cyle Larin
Steve Slade/UConn Athletics

CanNMT: College sensation Cyle Larin hoping to prove he's Canada's striker of the future

For a youngster who’s just completed his freshman year at the University of Connecticut, it makes sense that Cyle Larin is focusing on one thing at training camp with Canada’s national team: soaking up as much knowledge as he can.

“My goal is to learn from the veterans and how they approach each game,” Larin told by phone on Wednesday. “Going into each day with the right mentality, working hard every day and transferring it to the game.”

The 19-year-old from Brampton, Ontario, is currently with the Canadian squad in Austria, preparing for Friday’s international friendly against Bulgaria. Head coach Benito Floro named a roster with a mix of veterans and newcomers – and for Larin, that approach appears to be paying off so far.

“Players in front of me have been here for a long time – [Tosaint] Ricketts, Atiba [Hutchinson],” he said. “Just watching them and how they perform on the field, I’m learning a lot from them. And I can probably take that into my game too.”

This is Larin’s second camp under Floro, having been part of a Florida camp in January made up mostly of young, North American-based players. But Larin feels this camp is giving him an even better chance to absorb lessons from all of the well-travelled people around him – including his coach.

“I really like him,” Larin said of Floro. “He has a lot of experience in the game. I’m learning a lot from him as a striker.”

Larin scored 14 goals in 22 games in an impressive freshman season with the Huskies, putting himself on the radar of a Canadian national team that hasn’t scored in its last 10 international fixtures. But Larin isn’t making any bold proclamations about ending that drought; instead, he’s just excited about the chance to earn his first cap for his country.

“It means a lot. When I was younger I never got to represent [Canada],” he said. “I’ve worked hard to get to here and I’m just happy to be here right now. And if I get the chance, I’ll work my hardest to score.”

Larin took a non-traditional route to his current position, coming up through a Toronto-area private soccer academy rather than a community club. But he’s not the first – Toronto FC and Canada midfielder Kyle Bekker came from the same academy, Sigma FC, and Larin believes there could be more talent coming from private academies in the years to come.

“I think now the Canadian Soccer Association is seeing the players that have developed in private academies and we’re able to show ourselves more,” said Larin. “Academies in Canada are growing right now. So I think the future will be really good for Canadian soccer.”

For the time being, Larin isn’t overly focused on the big picture; instead, he’s just doing his best to adjust to the international level of play that he’s encountering at national-team camp, and continuing to learn whenever he can.

“Right now I’m just taking everything as it goes, in the present,” said Larin. “Here at the camp and when I go back to school, making sure I’m ready for the season.”