ORLANDO, Fla. – Amazing. Hungry. Composed. Focused.
Those were the attributes that Orlando City SC’s players and coaches chose to describe Cyle Larin’s performance after his goal keyed a 2-0 win over D.C. United that finally broke their six-game May winless streak.
It had been a frustrating run for the Lions as they went 0-4-2 record through the first 30 days on the month. That angst all came unleashed when they saw Larin fight his way through Steve Birnbaum’s bear hug to send in the crucial 66th-minute header and lift the mood on a soaking Central Florida night.
“It’s nothing short of amazing that he continues to score those types of goals,” said coach Jason Kreis, “because everybody knows Cyle is extremely dangerous in the box and every opponent is keyed on trying to be physical with him. But sometimes that’s not getting it done, and that’s a credit to him that he can fight through those challenges and score the goal that we needed.”
Kreis said he never doubted Larin would be the one to lift the Lions out of their funk, despite only one goal in the previous seven games. He now has eight for the season.
“I think it’s something you just know about Cyle,” Kreis added. “He is our leading goalscorer and the one who is typically in the right spot at the right time and tonight was no different. I think he has been in that exact same spot in almost every game we’ve played, but he’s been a little unfortunate not to finish things off [recently]. Tonight that was the difference.”
Giles Barnes played a key role as a substitute, winning the free kick for Larin’s goal and then scoring the second with a long-range strike United ‘keeper Bill Hamid will want to forget. But he was quick to highlight Larin’s night afterward.
“He’s a big strong boy with a hunger to win plays and make things happen,” Barnes said. “He’s been doing that all year. I think he takes a bit of stick for some chances he might be burying, but he’s come back and scored again.”
Defender Jonathan Spector also liked what he saw from the Canadian striker, even in his recent lean moments.
“Time and time again he’s got great strength and composure in front of goal in those situations,” Spector insisted “When he’s in front of goal like that, he’s a natural goalscorer and those are hard to come by. We’re certainly grateful to have a player like that.”
Spector also empathized with Birnbaum's plight marking the brawny forward.
“Once he gets in those positions it’s so difficult to get around on the other side of him,” Spector said. “He knows that and he’s very clever in how he manipulates his body and the players around him.”
To hear Larin tell it, though, the strategy was simple.
“I was getting grabbed the whole game but I kept fighting through it,” he said. “On that one, I just made sure I got in front of [Birnbaum] and stuck my head on the ball.”