On Thursday, Orlando City SC made University of Connecticut striker Cyle Larin the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Yesterday, we spoke with Larin in the first interview since he was selected.
It was Orlando City SC's first SuperDraft, but Head Coach Adrian Heath and GM Paul McDonough handled it brilliantly. Many felt the expansion side had one of the best days of any team. Larin was the top name on most people's boards, and Orlando rebutted trade offers from a number of clubs to stay at number one and grab the UConn striker.
"I was nervous about what team I was going to go to," said Larin. "I think it was the right choice. It was the right decision. I think Orlando will be a great new start for me."
Cyle was unable to attend the draft in Philadelphia, because he was in Jamaica playing with Canada's national U-20 team in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. By now though, most everyone has seen the incredible video of the raucous celebration that ensued when he and his Canadian teammates heard MLS Commissioner Don Garber announce his selection.
"It was an exciting moment," said the Brampton, Ontario native. "Just having Canadian players behind me. My heart was beating really fast. When they called my name, it was a dream come true for me."
It sounded as if Cyle's heart rate was still a bit elevated as we spoke, just 24 hours after that amazing moment. Of course, there's another big moment on the horizon for the 19-year-old, as he'll soon get to meet and train with Kaka.
"He's a world class player," responded Larin, when asked about the Brazilian. "He's won the [Ballon D'or]. It's a dream come true. Hopefully I can learn from him and see how he carries himself on and off the field, and hopefully take my career as far as he did."
Larin's more of a true striker than Kaka though, so we asked if there were any other number nines in Major League Soccer that he was excited to play with and learn from.
"Robbie Keane," replied Larin almost immediately. "Just how he scores, the way he scores. I just think he's a beast."
The LA Galaxy striker is an excellent man to emulate to be sure, but what sort of player does Larin see himself as?
"I can hold up very well, I have very good feet, and dribbling at defenders and scoring," said the forward. "That's what I'm supposed to do. I like to score goals. That's what I love doing."
Showing a true striker's mentality, Larin mentioned "scoring goals" in response to almost every question. But is he concerned about going up against the likes of Omar Gonzalez and Chad Marshall in Major League Soccer?
"Just watching [Gonzalez and Marshall], they're really physical and smart," the striker replied. "I'm just going to have to be a step quicker than them."
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, the UConn product has the size to contribute immediately in MLS. However, like many Canadians, his first sport was hockey, and he's still considered a bit of a raw talent by some. What parts of his game will he aim to work on in 2015?
"Being mentally ready every game. Just thinking quicker," replied Larin. "It's going to be faster, and physically it's going to be harder. Just getting to that pace of the game so I can play at that level. Just to make sure I work hard throughout the whole year."
In talking with Larin, I found a humble young man who is excited to play for Orlando City and wants to work hard to be the best player he can possibly be. When asked what he was most looking forward to about Florida, the striker's mind didn't stray from soccer for even a moment.
"Just coming down there and taking it all in. It's exciting," Larin said. "Just playing with the players that are there, like Kaka, that I watched on TV when I was younger, and now playing with them. I'm just excited to start playing with Orlando."