ORLANDO. FL. – Cyle Larin is setting the bar for himself higher in 2017 than his first two seasons with Orlando City SC. Head coach Jason Kreis may be setting it even higher still.
The big Canadian forward was prominent as the Lions opened preseason training on Monday, with hope for a big year but a stern warning from Kreis of what is expected now that he is more equipped to take charge.
Larin has bagged 31 goals through his first two MLS seasons, but insists he will not be happy unless he improves on that figure.
“I have more team goals than personal ones this year,” he explained. “But I still have a personal target to score more goals than I did last year and the year before. I am a lot fitter than I was at the beginning of preseason last year. For my third year in the league, I know I can score a lot more goals.”
“It makes me feel proud,” Larin admitted. “It’s good to hear that from someone who has played at the top level in Europe and he thinks I can do it. I just have to keep working to get there. Yes, ultimately I want to play in the best leagues in the world. I have to work hard to get there but, if I have a good year this year, I can get there.”
Larin has spent much of the offseason in Orlando working on his fitness, and Kreis has been paying special attention to his top goalscorer, working on his movement, runs into the box and finishing.
“Now that I know and understand my coach better, which was a process I had to get used to, I know what to expect and I’d hope to score a lot more goals consistently throughout the year,” he said. “He’s telling me I need to get in the box and get my head up and shoot more. I don’t think I shoot enough, and I know I can do more.”
For his part, Kreis has made it clear fitness will be top of his agenda for all the players. “I think it’s important the group recognizes right away the importance of raising the level of intensity, of competitiveness, and the level of our fitness,” he said. “All three of those things were addressed today in a very short time. We know we have a lot of work in front of us.”
Kreis also expects to see much more from Larin this season in all-round terms, especially as his goalscoring tailed off in the last two months of 2016.
“I think we want a lot of improvement for Cyle” the head coach added. “From my point of view, it is every facet of his game. Now it’s his third year as a pro and he needs to move forward. He had a little bit of a stalling period last season, which you can expect with a young player. Now it’s about how you react to that and how you improve after that.
“We know he has been putting in a lot of work. He’s one of a handful of players who stayed here during the offseason. Those players have shown they are trim right now, and fit and strong. So we’re looking for some of that to show itself in the next couple of days. We have fitness tests on Thursday so that’s when people can start to put their money where their mouth is.”