ORLANDO – Cyle Larin has put himself firmly in the picture for Rookie of the Year with his scintillating hat trick at New York City FC on Sunday, according to his Orlando City SC head coach.
Thanks to his one-game touchline ban, Adrian Heath was only an admiring observer from a Yankee Stadium private box as this year’s No. 1 SuperDraft pick buried all three of Orlando's goals in the rollicking 5-3 defeat.
It gave Larin nine goals in 15 games this season – including only 12 starts – and also earned him his first Player of the Week award. But the 21-year-old can expect many more honors to come his way if he continues his current progress.
“I think Cyle has put himself firmly in the Rookie of the Year conversation,” Heath insisted. “I am trying to think of anyone else who has come into their team this year and done as much as he has and contributed as much as he has. It will be interesting to see who – if anyone – gets chosen ahead of him.
“You are never quite certain how things will work out when you get a young player out of college. He has the physical tools, but can he take on the information he needs to learn and how quickly can he do it? Cyle is definitely showing us the answer on that score.”
Heath was mainly delighted that the Canadian hot-shot is demonstrating with absolute certainty that he is now taking the lessons of the training ground on to the field with him.
“On Sunday, you could see that the things we are telling him on Monday to Friday are sinking in,” the head coach added. “Cyle is making the right runs and putting himself in the right positions to be successful.
“He has always been bigger and stronger than anyone at college level, but that isn’t going to work in the professional world. Now he is being smarter as well, and that shows he is taking on the field what he is being told on a regular basis. This will also give him new inspiration and a boost of confidence to take into the weekend.”
Larin himself has visibly grown in confidence in the past two months, bagging six of his goals in that eight-game stretch. And the manner with which he converted his 35-minute second-half treble in New York – a left-foot drive, a side-foot and a right-foot rocket – put a big smile on his face.
“Yes, it felt really good,” he admitted. “But being on the field with those kinds of players – great players, some of the best in the world – is a great experience. I feel I can play with those guys, and it is an inspiration to have that kind of opportunity.
“I am learning every day and they are teaching me a lot. I am trying to put it into my game and I think a couple of the goals came from that.”
How does he feel about being picked by his coach as a potential ROTY?
“It is good to be in that conversation,” he said. “But I think I still have a lot of work to do. I came into the season just wanting to work hard and learn the game. I knew that if I could apply myself, I would score goals, but I feel I still have a way to go, both on the field and off the field.”
“I think the future of the league is going to be really good with these players in the game,” he added. “It is great to have the chance to play with these guys, and I need to make the most of it.”
The big striker also explained that he is reaping the benefits of the most intense playing and training period of his young career to date.
“It is certainly the longest I have ever played during a year,” Larin said. “At college, it is just a three-month season, and you certainly don’t train as much. It underlines for me how important it is to make sure I am ready for every game.
“But I think I am doing well so far – now I just need to learn more so I can do it better.”