Cyle Larin entered 2016 coming off an impressive 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year season. In spite of the team’s defensive struggles, Larin turned in another productive season for the Lions but did it without exceeding last year’s breakout season as fans might have hoped.
Not a surprise to Orlando City fans, Larin’s play drew praise from observers around the league, as he was named the best player under 24 for 2016. There were also rumors of European clubs interesting in the young Canadian, which Orlando fans will have to get used to if Larin continues to score goals.
Larin led the team in scoring for a second year with 14 goals — three shy of his tally last season. When you look back at the games Larin scored in, 12 of his 14 goals came in games that either ended in a draw or a one-goal difference. Orlando went 4-6-3 when Larin was on the score sheet. The Lions’ record with Larin scoring could’ve been better, but defensive inadequacies undermined more than a few of those games.
The Canadian international continued to be an efficient striker, averaging a goal every 5.2 shots this season. The Mane Land covered this aspect of Larin’s game before, but it’s worth noting again just how efficient Larin works as a traditional No. 9. With other attacking options like Kevin Molino and Kaká, it could be that Larin doesn’t need a bunch of chances per game to score because of the service he receives.
Larin developed other areas of his game this season as well, notching his first three MLS assists -- tying for third on the team in that category. He was also a workhorse, appearing in 32 of Orlando City’s 34 matches, starting 29 and playing 2,455 minutes (all career highs and first among all Lion field players). In addition, he set new highs for shots (73) and shots on goal (33) — both team highs.
Oh, and he committed seven fewer fouls and was offside four fewer times despite a rise in playing time of more than 500 minutes. If there’s a knock on his game, his passing accuracy of 73.4% was fourth worst on the team and that’s only if you count Aurelien Collin’s short stint with the club this season. Otherwise, only Carlos Rivas and Joe Bendik were less accurate with their passes.
Larin’s only multi-goal game of the season came during a 2-1 home victory against Montreal on May 21. Larin showcased his ability to be a goal-scoring threat with both his head and feet. Montreal opened up a one-goal lead early in the first half. Orlando leveled the game late in the first as Kaká served an excellent free kick from the left side that only needed a slight redirection from Larin to find the bottom right corner. Larin looked dangerous throughout the second half, and was unfortunate not to score when he narrowly missed from a tight angle after rounding Montreal’s goalkeeper. The winner came in the 86th minute with Larin sliding home a neat pass after some nifty combination play from Baptista and Kaká.
2016 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff gave Larin a rating of 7 for the season. The rating might seem high, but the team was kept in reach of a playoff spot nearly the entire year because of Larin’s goals in close games.
Larin led the line for an Orlando team that didn’t have problems scoring for most of the season. The Lions finished with the third-most goals in the league with 55 — more goals than 10 of the 12 playoff teams.
If there was a negative to Larin’s play this year, it would be that his play seemed to drop at the end of the season. Larin scored his last goal of the season on Sept. 18, and Orlando went 2-1-2 over the last five games with Larin unable to make the highlights. While it’s unfair to say Orlando missed out on a playoff spot because of Larin, it’s hard not to think about what might have been if he managed a couple more goals down the stretch.
Larin doesn’t need to score 25 goals next season. Sure, it would be nice for Larin to challenge for the league’s top scorer, and he is definitely capable of doing so. But that’s not what Orlando has been missing the last two years.
The key to success for Larin and Orlando next year is for the defense to take some pressure off the attacking players. Larin, Kaká, and company have the quality to create enough opportunities to win games, but they need more support and clean sheets from the back four if next year is going to be any different.
Will Larin still be around? It seems likely that he’ll spend another year in purple unless a club makes an offer that Orlando City and MLS can’t refuse. Otherwise, look for the Canadian to again provide offensive fireworks for Orlando.