ORLANDO – Cyle Larin may have a European league in his soccer future at some stage, but Orlando City SC insist they are in absolutely no hurry to cash in on their prospective MLS Rookie of the Year.
The Canadian striker has more than lived up to his No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick status for the Lions this season, taking his goal haul to an MLS rookie record 14 last weekend against New York Red Bulls with his second hat trick of the campaign.
It has led to speculation that the team may have a fight on its hands to keep both Larin and fellow 20-year-old hotshot Bryan Rochez, who has tallied in each of the last three games as a substitute.
That notion has been firmly quashed by the team’s top brass, who insist there is more likelihood of Orlando adding to their attacking quotient this offseason than trying to use either Larin or Rochez as a bargaining chip within the league or selling them outside it.
And while there was definite European interest in Larin before he opted to enter this year’s SuperDraft, general manager Paul McDonough believes the University of Connecticut product’s decision to start his professional career in MLS will continue to pay dividends.
“Cyle still has a lot of growing to do,” McDonough said. “He got a very good foundation with his youth team in Canada, and UConn built on that. Now Adrian [Heath] has pushed him to a whole new level.
“I am sure we will sit down with him to discuss his future and figure out what’s best for him at some stage, but it’s probably not going to be anytime soon. He will need to work on his game a lot more for the time being.”
Orlando’s assessment of their fledgling talent is in keeping with the team’s ethos of building a sustainable youth program augmented by savvy veteran stars like Kaká, Aurelien Collin, Tally Hall and Lewis Neal, as well as recent acquisitions David Mateos and Adrian Winter.
Larin has now made 24 appearances for the Lions this year in addition to seven for Canada, a heavy load compared to 37 starts in two full seasons with UConn. It’s why City were not willing to release him to the Canada U-23 squad this week for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, which is not a FIFA-mandated date.
It was clear all the additional traveling, which included a grueling World Cup qualifying trip to Belize last month, was starting to have an effect on Larin’s overall performances, which is why head coach Heath was so pleased to see him back to his goal-scoring best against the Red Bulls.
“I was just delighted for him. I really wanted him to get that record,” Heath said. “We definitely thought the season was starting to wear on him a little bit, but he has now had chance to recharge his batteries, and we hope to see even more goals before the end of the season.”
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Initial European interest in Larin came from Germany and England, including a Premier League team, as well as Belgian side Genk.
But Orlando are confident Larin’s experience this year and, more importantly, his comfort level in the Lions set-up, will keep him in the fold for some time to come.
“We will take all these things as they come,” McDonough added. “It is not a bad situation to be in. We would love to say we knew it would work out like this the day we drafted him, but you have to give a lot of credit to the kid himself and the coaches.
“The hard part is he now needs to build on what he has started, but he is very level-headed and Adrian works really well with strikers, so it is a good environment for him to continue in.”
The team plans to acknowledge Larin’s rookie record at some stage in the near future, but the details have yet to be worked out as the whole focus this week is on Saturday’s must-win game against Montreal at the Citrus Bowl (7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE).