In late July, Orlando City striker Cyle Larin was scoring at a blistering pace. Prior to his sending off at home against the New York Red Bulls, Larin scored seven goals in four games, netting at least one in each of those four. After that streak, however, Larin began to struggle.
Over the next 10 games, Larin would only score one goal prior to his hat trick in New York Friday night. Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath consistently said Larin's struggles were due to fatigue, as he had never played so many games in a season. It's only been one game, but what changed to help Larin regain his great form at Red Bull Arena?
Prior to the start of their inaugural MLS campaign, the Lions signed Honduran striker Bryan Róchez from Real España. The young DP was hyped as a future star that would lead the Lions to the playoffs in their first year. But it's been a nightmare season for the 20-year-old.
For much of the season, Róchez has struggled with his fitness, keeping him off the field. While the coaching staff and front office asked fans to be patient with the young striker, many wondered if the team squandered a Designated Player spot on someone that would never contribute to the first team.
Things got worse for Róchez when he joined Honduras' U-20 national team for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Róchez lost his passport while on international duty, forcing him to stay in the country for six weeks.
With Róchez away or unfit, there was little competition for Larin. With little competition for the rookie, what incentive was there to continue producing at such a high rate?
That all changed recently. Now fit and raring to go, Róchez has been used a super sub by Heath and has contributed greatly to the team's current stretch of wins. Against Sporting Kansas City, Róchez scored the Lions' go-ahead goal in the 66th minute on a cross from Brek Shea. He then tracked down a ball he lost and played it in to Adrian Winter which resulted in the team's third goal of the game.
He netted a potentially more important goal the following week in Chicago. With a 0-0 game and time running out on a potential three points, Róchez scored in the 86th minute, resulting in a much-needed win for the Lions, keeping them in the playoff hunt.
These performances have put pressure on Larin to produce and likely had an effect on his hat trick Friday night. During Tuesday night's Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath, the head man explained how Róchez pushed Larin to succeed.
"You keep telling Cyle, if he doesn't produce at the level we expect of him, he's coming out of the team as Bryan's earned his opportunity. The way Bryan has been playing recently has really been pushing Cyle hard."
As much talent as Larin has, and as well as he has been playing, Róchez's sudden rise is helping Larin to push himself further at just the right time. As the popular saying goes, "competition breeds excellence." It's been a long time since Larin has seen competition for his starting position but Róchez's recent success is forcing the young striker to produce down the stretch.