KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With the numbers he's putting up this season at Orlando City, Cyle Larin might seem like a lock to win the MLS Rookie of the Year award and claim a roster spot on a Canada U-23 team that's trying to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Lions wouldn't release the 20-year-old star forward for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, however, as they try to climb over the red line late in their inaugural MLS season. They're also under no obligation to let him go, because the tournament doesn't fall during an official FIFA date.
But Larin, who has 14 goals in league play, wasn't the only player that coach Benito Floro would have liked to have on hand for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament that starts with Thursday's Group A match against the United States at Sporting Park (9 pm ET).
“Not only Larin, but multiple players who also play for MLS and Canada weren't able to be called up to the squad because these aren't FIFA dates and they intersect with MLS dates,” said Floro, who is also the Canadian senior squad's coach, through a translator during a news conference on Wednesday night.
However, the US U-23s were able to secure several MLS players, including New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga and Columbus midfielder Wil Trapp. And Orlando City, who wouldn't let Larin go to the Canucks, released forward Bryan Rochez to compete for Honduras.
That last part didn't sit well with Floro, who does have seven MLS players – if lightly used ones – on his current roster.
“Honduras was fortunate when it comes to the tournament,” he said. “There are multiple players in MLS that were not allowed to come and display their soccer for Canada. And it's not just for us. CONCACAF should act as FIFA, to regulate and require that those players are released so that they can represent their country.”
Still, midfielder Samuel Piette said during the news conference, the players who are in Kansas City view the qualifying tournament as a chance to showcase themselves as well as make a push for a spot in Rio.
“Obviously, we're missing some big players,” said Piette, who plays for third-tier Spanish side Racing de Ferrol. “But the players that we have here are trying our best to prove to the coaching staff that they can be on the starting XI. And as well, I think it's a long process.
“The main objective now is to qualify for the Olympics, but as well to continue after to the men's senior team, to try to get a spot and get called up. So it's very important for us to prove ourselves now in this tournament.”
So far, Floro likes what he has seen from his young side as they prepare for qualifying.
“The experience of seeing the players' growth in the past six days has given me hope for what's to come,” he said. “They have grown in a great manner as a team. I'm hopeful of what they're going to achieve.
“But football is a Lotto. You're playing to your best and to your opponent's weaknesses.”
Steve Brisendine covers soccer in Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.