ORLANDO, Fla. -- There's only a small sample on which to base these observations, but two matches in, it’s fair to say Orlando City SC are thrilled with their new strike combination. With Kaká out after an injury during the team's season-opening match at home, both Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas are more than handling things. Credit them, in fact, for Saturday night's 2-1 Orlando win over Philadelphia, and the team's 2-0-0 start to the 2017 season.
Surprisingly, head coach Jason Kreis isn’t about to take credit for this deadly duo. That's despite the fact that Larin has scored three times this short season so far, and Rivas has been a revelation in his support play. The latter even tallied a notable assist on the Canadian’s first goal against Philly, and boasted a hand in the second.
While Larin proved a physical handful for the second game in a row, Rivas popped up all over the Union back four like a Colombian jack-in-the-box, unsettling the visiting backline with his speed and constant harassment.
Yet Kreis insists that wasn’t the way he drew things up prior to this season. “I wouldn’t try to pat myself on the back too much,” he said. “It’s something that really only came about in preseason mostly due to Carlos’s willingness to work extremely hard and give us something different with his running in behind defenders. He’s really convinced us that we want to play that way.
“I also wouldn’t want to make any comments about the forwards without saying how important Carlos was to the performance as well,” he continued. “It’s really pleasing to see Cyle get a couple goals, but his partner up there, he deserves a couple as well.”
Rivas had performed fitfully for the Lions through his first two seasons. Saddled with the DP label, he veered wildly from dazzling to desperate, but showed signs in 2016 he could be a valuable strike partner, and that is definitely what Larin now sees.
“Carlos is a great player and I need him on the field,” Larin said. “When he gets the ball on the wing, I know he is going to cross it and where he is going to put it. He opens up the space. He is very strong and quick and good with the ball. He attacks the defenders, and, when he goes down the line to cross the ball, I make sure I am in the box.”
The Colombian speedster, who is still only 22 years old, is equally convinced their partnership is quickly developing into a major MLS double act.
“[Cyle’s] a great forward, and he’s had many opportunities to score goals,” he said via the team’s interpreter. “I am a fast player and know how to position myself in order to provide an opportunity. It’s just a matter of time and learning to understand each other a lot more. I feel really good with him by my side. Sometimes he goes to receive the ball and I’m beside him and sometimes vice versa, which works well.”
Rivas also insists there is a lot more to come from him, both as provider and goal-scorer. “I feel a lot better physically since my last game,” he added. “I’ve been slowly improving things I was missing before, and I hope I can improve a lot more. I think the goals will come, too, little by little. There will come a game when there are one, two, three goals. I just need to keep working at it.”