On Friday night, Cyle Larin started at striker once again for Orlando City. But there are glaring weaknesses in his game which caused problems for the Lions. Those weaknesses happen to be strengths for Larin's current backup, Bryan Róchez, which is why he should start Wednesday against D.C. United.
Since he first came to Orlando in 2011, Adrian Heath has been fiercely loyal to his style of playing a lone striker. Whether it's a 4-3-2-1 or 4-2-3-1, Heath leaves one guy by himself. The way Orlando City plays, there is a specific skill set that a striker must have to be successful in this system.
One skill is the ability to hold up the ball. As the lone striker, there will be times where he will receive the ball forward with no support. The striker needs to be able to hold the ball and shield the defender while support arrives. He then can lay the ball off to a midfielder and the attack is underway.
Another skill, as with any striker, is attacking the ball in the box. While Orlando City will attack up the middle, they equally go outside to a winger or overlapping fullback, who will send in a cross. In those situations, they need a striker that will attack the ball in the air.
Larin, the 20-year-old striker who was Orlando City's first-round draft pick this year, has been Heath's preferred choice up top for much of this season. However, he lacks certain assets that are vital to this style of play.
One problem with Larin is that he seems unable to hold up the ball when he receives it with his back to goal. That causes problems, because he loses the ball before help arrives, stalling the attack at its genesis. There were several occasions on Friday night where Larin received the ball but lost it before anyone could arrive, immediately conceding possession.
The young striker also constantly fails to attack the ball in the box. At 6-foot-2, Larin has a big body which should allow him to get on the end of crosses. But when he doesn't attack the ball, he allows the defenders to clear it without a challenge.
Róchez has been the opposite of Larin when given the opportunity. Despite his smaller size, Róchez does a fantastic job at holding the ball until help arrives. He also understands how to lay off the ball to Kaká in an advantageous position that gives the 33-year-old central midfielder options in keeping the attack flowing.
As for playing in the air, the 5-foot-9 Honduran forward plays much larger than his size. Róchez attacks crosses with reckless abandon, creating havoc for opposing defenses. Even if he doesn't score, he at least gets on the end of balls and forces defenders to challenge him.
Róchez' recent impressive play hasn't gone unnoticed by his coach. "
This isn't to say Larin isn't capable of playing in Heath's system. At times, the young striker shows the ability to possess these assets. While he generally failed to attack crosses, Larin's goal Friday night was because he did attack the ball with intent. But to be successful, the starting striker must attack balls consistently.
If Larin is to continue starting for the Lions, they need to give him a striking partner. With help up top, Larin's skills will be better suited. However, Heath is very unlikely add any strikers to the lineup. He has talked at length about why he likes the system he uses and is fully committed to using a lone front man.
Since Heath clearly won't change his system, which has been very successful in the past, it's time to make a change up top. Cyle Larin may grow into his role but right now he's not able to perform as needed as a lone striker. It's time for the Lions to start Bryan Róchez.