When Jordan Morris won the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year award, it marked the third consecutive year that a striker had claimed the honor after Dallas’ Tesho Akindele took it home in 2014 and Orlando City’s own Cyle Larin in 2015.
Looking at the Seattle forward’s fantastic season helps us further put into context just how good Larin’s season was in 2015, and shows that the Canadian easily had the best campaign of the three strikers to claim top rookie honors.
Morris’ numbers were very good, and he’ll undoubtedly take comfort in the fact that the Sounders are competing for an MLS Cup on Dec. 10, but they pale in comparison to what Larin did for Orlando in 2015. While Morris scored 12 goals and registered four assists in his first season out of Stanford, his 0.38 goals per 90 were far less efficient than Larin’s 0.80 goals per 90 en route to a rookie record 17 goals.
Larin was also more efficient when it came to finishing, converting on 26.5% of his shots compared to a 16.9% clip for Morris. When looking back at Akindele’s rookie campaign, both Morris and Larin bested his 0.36 goals per 90 minutes, but his 23.3% conversion rate was higher than Morris managed.
Both Morris and Larin remain two of the brighter young players in MLS, and Morris could yet cap his inaugural season with a championship. However, the bar for rookie performances by a striker has been set high by the Lions’ front man.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to monitor Larin’s progress.
Akindele’s goal output has failed to reach his rookie level (7) since 2014, as he scored five in 2015 and six this season. Likewise, Larin fell short of his 17 rookie goals with 14 in 2016, although his three assists meant that he had a hand in the same amount of goals overall.
Another former UConn striker and MLS Rookie of the Year, Damani Ralph, managed 11 goals in each of his two seasons with Chicago Fire, but we didn’t get a third-year template to look at because of his departure abroad to Rubin Kazan, where he would go on to score only two more goals for his career.
While Larin was better in many respects as a second-year player, his goals, goals per 90 (0.51, still excellent), and conversion rate (19.1%) all dipped in 2016. Orlando City will be hoping that a full off-season for Jason Kreis and the return of an excellent offensive core will lead to a big-time third season for Larin in 2017.