Canadian international Cyle Larin was considered the consensus number one prospect in January's MLS SuperDraft, following a standout career at the University of Connecticut. Although many thought Orlando City might trade the pick or avoid adding another international player, Orlando City could not pass up the exciting 19-year-old.
Larin ticked all the boxes any team would want in a promising young forward. He's a big guy, at 6-foot-2 and weighing in at just under 200 pounds, and he used his size, strength and goal-scoring ability to produce 23 goals over his two years at UConn before declaring for the draft.
And, being a Generation Adidas player means he doesn't count against Orlando's salary cap. To top it all off, Larin is already experienced at a high level, being a member of the Canadian National Team -- which recently selected him for the roster for the upcoming international window.
With all of these positives, however, Larin has been thrown into a complicated situation. There are currently six forwards on Orlando's roster. Having so many players at the same position for a team that only deploys one striker means that there are several that have to wait their turn to see the field. Larin has not yet been able to separate himself from a pack of very talented players, many of whom have a lot more professional experience.
This situation is unlike the player picked just after Larin in the draft, Khiry Shelton. Drafted by another expansion club in New York City FC, Shelton has been used as a super sub in the team's first two games and has had a tremendous impact in both. Shelton's situation is different, since there are only five forwards on NYCFC and they play in a formation that can allow two to three forwards playing at once.
Orlando has been known to occasionally go with two up top, but have mostly only played with one in Adrian Heath's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Today's game might just be the perfect time for Larin to get his moment. Carlos Rivas and Martin Paterson have been sidelined with injuries and Bryan Róchez is questionable with what Heath called "fitness issues." This leaves Larin, Danny Mwanga and Pedro Ribeiro as the only fully healthy and capable forwards on the roster for the game tonight.
With Orlando's USL affiliate Louisville City FC starting play next week, Larin finds himself in a crowd at forward and therefore a candidate for a loan to a lower tier. If he can take advantage of the Lions' current injury situation, he could get on the pitch and show the team he wants to stay in Orlando -- and that he was the right choice in the draft.