By MIKE GRAMAJO
Orlando City hasn’t played an MLS match yet, but that doesn’t mean Cyle Larin wasn’t aware of what it meant when the Florida-based MLS expansion team made him the No. 1 pick in the 2015 MLS draft.
“I kind of knew what I was getting myself into when I found out I was going to Orlando City,” Larin told SBI Soccer. “I already started training and adapting myself to a fast-paced possessive style of football. I prepared myself to that type of soccer.”
The striker isn’t familiar with the Orlando area, and didn’t follow the Lions during their USL Pro days. He was, however, aware of the team’s rapid rise, and growing fan base.
“It was the 2013 USL championship game,” he added. “Just seeing the amount of people that showed up was unreal, especially for a team playing in the lower division. It seemed like a major real deal.”
Larin scored 23 goals in 39 games for the UConn Huskies, but his nine-goal sophomore season was widely regarded as a disappointment. Larin acknowledges the need to improve, and is excited for the opportunity to join an attack featuring Brazilian star Kaka.
“I watched him (Kaka) growing up,” Larin continued. “I just never imagined being his teammate one day. I know what he’s capable of doing, so I don’t think about failing around him, but learning from him and other veteran players, so I can improve individually as a player.
“The team on paper looks so well-structured, it’s just a matter of time — preseason and several training days — until we gel together as a unit. And playing with the Canadian national team also helps in my development, so I can contribute on-and-off the field for my new team.”
Orlando’s will be fielding a relatively young front line in its inaugural seson. Honduran international and Designated Player Bryan Rochez, just 20, leads the offense. Former No. 1 overall MLS draft pick Danny Mwanga is also in the strike force, while Pedro Ribeiro could see time at forward as well.
“We’re a team at the end of the day, so that’s coach’s decision when that day comes,” Larin said regarding playing time. “I know that we all have something to work for because everything is earned and Heath is that guy who rewards his player when they perform accordingly in the practice pitch and game days.
“I’m going to learn a lot this year and hope to develop as a player, but I definitely have a number of goals I want to score during my first year in MLS.”