BRONX, NY -- Cyle Larin almost didn't get the chance.
Struggling to gain a foothold in Sunday's game against New York City FC, it looked like acting head coach Mark Watson was preparing to make a change, after sending backup forward Martin Paterson to warm up behind the Orlando City bench. But almost as if he could sense the change coming, Larin made a change of his own.
The Canadian rookie scored three goals in the final 43 minutes of play to help the Lions stay in the game before eventually falling to NYCFC, 5-3, at Yankee Stadium.
The three goals gave Larin nine on the season, which ties him with five other players, including his teammate Kaká, for fourth in Major League Soccer this season. Larin's nine goals also have him just two shy of the MLS rookie record of 11, set by Damani Ralph with the Chicago Fire in 2003. Larin only has 13 more games this season to score two goals and break that record.
"I felt good in this game, and I was ready for this game and to get a win, but unfortunately we didn't," Larin said after the match. "I gave it my all this game, and it's hard scoring three goals and not winning, but we didn't. But we win as a team and lose as a team."
Larin's first career hat trick also created some MLS history for Orlando City:
Hat trick! Cyle Larin gets the 3rd @MLS hat trick for an expansion team (2010 Le Toux with PHI; 1998 Serna with MIA).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 26, 2015
"Cyle Larin also showed the league what he can do," Watson said of the 20-year-old striker. "As a player, any time you score three goals, you can feel it is a pretty good night, and I think some of our attacking play was really good. We created a bunch of chances and, on another day, we could have had four or five ourselves."
With so much focus on Orlando City's pursuit of big designated players this summer, including the heavily targeted Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Larin has continued to put up good numbers for his club, and is currently on pace to shatter MLS's rookie scoring record, all while fitting in as the next big thing in Canada's national team plans.
His high production brings up the question of whether or not Orlando City should even consider adding an expensive striker to play over Larin.
Adrian Heath has expressed his concerns with Larin slowing down in the final months of the season, having never put in this much work in during a season, coming straight out of college. Between MLS and international play, Larin has already logged more minutes than he ever did during a college season, not even mentioning daily training sessions.
At some point, Bryan Rochez, one of the club's three DPs, will be fit and ready to make an impact. Paterson is finally healthy -- again -- and Pedro Ribeiro can play up top when needed.
It's a situation many fans are debating, and a question Heath is probably asking himself on a daily basis, especially after games like this.
Larin is a great talent, and is making the most of his opportunities in Year 1 -- even if he has to fight to hold on to those chances.