After being the first overall selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City, striker Cyle Larin has gone on a rampage, netting 11 league goals in 17 games. The total ties him with Damani Ralph for most goals for an MLS rookie, with 11 games still remaining. But why has Larin been so successful during his rookie year?
Many young players are signed on raw talent alone. The hope is that with hard work they will one day reach their potential. While some do, many fail to reach the heights they had hoped for. Usually this isn't due to a lack of desire or talent, but because they didn't have the mental toughness to reach the levels many thought they could.
Soccer is, in many ways, an instinctual game. Players often depend on intuition to make split-second decisions. With the speed of play at the professional level, that sometimes means certain players are unable to recall what they learned in training while in the high-paced environment. Special players have that ability to immediately recall what they've learned on the training ground and can improve themselves when it counts.
This is the case with Larin. The 20-year-old has vastly improved this season, much faster than Head Coach Adrian Heath says he and the other coaches expected. Larin's improvements have been because, unlike many players his age, he's able to retain the instruction from training and harness that during the game.
For Larin, there is no better example of this than his hat trick against New York City FC. Two of the striker's three goals in that game were highlights that took tremendous skill and precision to complete. However, these two weren't the one that impressed Heath.
Heath stated that the most impressive goal that day was the second goal, in which Carlos Rivas sent a ball across the box to the waiting Larin for what appeared to be an easy finish. The reason for Heath's praise on this specific goal, the one that to most viewers seemed like the least impressive of the three, was that they had been working on making back post runs with the striker in training.
Larin's progression this season can be seen in his results. He failed to score in his first three games of the season and only scored twice in his first seven appearances. However, in May he scored in back-to-back games against D.C. United and the LA Galaxy, two of the best teams in the league. He followed his hat trick against NYCFC by scoring twice against Columbus at home the following week.
Cyle Larin's potential to be a top level striker is undeniable, which is why he was the consensus number one pick going into this year's SuperDraft. But in order to reach his potential, the young scorer has to be able to implement into his games what he learns in training. While his natural ability certainly has its part to play in his remarkable success this season, it's his ability to retain information and use it when making split-second decisions that has led to his goal scoring record.