It’s safe to say the bridge to Orlando City is officially burned for Cyle Larin.
In the aftermath of the forward’s controversial transfer to Besiktas, Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao was highly critical of Larin’s behavior leading up to and during the move. The executive cited his 17 years in the soccer business while adding he’d never encountered a situation quite like the one caused by Larin’s move.
“You don’t see that happen often, this situation, because of the simple reason that, for a situation like that, you need to have a player that doesn’t respect the club, doesn’t respect contracts and doesn’t care about the group, and that’s exactly what we saw from Cyle,” Leitao said in a press conference. “A player decided to get out of the city and just not observe or follow a contract he signed. When that happened, we engaged the club and showed he had a contract with us and they came back and started to negotiate. In this moment, we had a conversation about what is the point in forcing a player with character like that, with that personality, a troublemaker, what’s the point in bringing a player like that back to the club?
“We decided it would be better if we do it and do it fast to put our efforts and focus on players that we have and the roster we’ll have looking forward to the season. We decided to engage in negations, and it ended in a very good negotiation and result for us as a club. That’s what happened. It was no overreaction from our side. It’s not something that happens every day because players are becoming professionals, and that’s not what happened with that gentleman who left this club.”
Larin’s transfer process was full of controversy, as Besiktas announced a transfer despite the fact that Orlando City had agreed to no such move. The forward’s option had been picked up by the MLS club, making him an Orlando City player heading towards the 2018 season.
However, the issues surrounding Larin began earlier in 2017 when the highly-productive forward was arrested for DUI, a situation that head coach Jason Kreis alluded to as one of the more frustrating parts of a frustrating season.
“I think it’s important to understand what we speak of when we speak of character,” Kreis said. “It’s not more character, but better character, because I always think this group has had big personalities. From my point of view, what we saw last year with the things off the field was alarming. We weren’t happy about it. We tried to address it in the best way we could, which was discipline during the season, but also the decisions made in the offseason. There are people that aren’t back and that suffered because of that.
“We felt a strong desire to have better professionals here who are serious about what they are doing and like-minded with us. We want guys that want to compete. We want guys that want to win. We want guys that feel the pain when we don’t win because we feel that. We’ve gone with that particular objective, and I think we’ve done a great job.”
Heading into 2018, Orlando City has made a number of additions. The club made a move for Sacha Kljestan to kickstart a big offseason that included deals for Justin Meram, Oriol Rosell and Josue Colman.
“It’s been a very difficult and busy offseason for us,” Kreis said. “We’ve made some bold moves as everyone can see and we’re doing that with a particular goal in mind: to improve the team to a level where we’re competing week in and week out and a level where, hopefully, we make the playoffs.
“That remains everyone’s first and foremost objective in our league. It is, for us, in 2018, and there can be no doubt about it.”