Looking back, it's hard to believe there was ever any debate about drafting Cyle Larin with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
There was never any doubt about his talent, but coming off the signing of Bryan Rochez as a Designated Player, public opinion was that Orlando City didn't really need another young striker on the roster.
It's a good thing public opinion wasn't making the call on that January afternoon.
The Lions ultimately drafted the Canadian forward with the first pick and since then, the UConn man has shattered a rookie scoring record with 17 in his first year, and two in two games to start in 2016.
Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath is just as confident in Larin's abilities, going on record that he expect 20 goals from the second year striker.
"I don't see any reason why he can't get 20 goals," Heath said after Orlando's 1-1 draw against Chicago. "He's bigger, stronger, quicker than he was this time last year. He knows the league, and I could go on. I don't believe in the sophomore slump, and think he's going to get better and better. And God willing he stays injury free, he can score a lot of goals."
It's fair to say the college system in America doesn't produce stars like people would like to see more of, and it's even more fair to say that we haven't seen a player with Larin's ability and potential like this in a long time -- if ever.
It's easy to see what areas of the game he excels at, but when you really break it down you find a player that does so many things well at such a young age it's hard not to think there aren't major teams in Europe watching him, impressed by what they see.
It's easy to sit here and talk about the goals and the stats and say, "yeah, that Larin guy is really good." But what is it specifically that makes him so lethal? Let's take a deeper look at Orlando City's goal scoring machine, Cyle Larin.
Larin has plenty of strengths in his game. His physical attributes being one of the most notable on the surface.
Larin plays as a target striker in Orlando City's system as the long striker, usually trying to get himself on the ends of crosses. In a physically tough league like MLS, it's important to be able to handle yourself against defenders both on the ground and in the air, and Larin can handle both of those areas well.
When it comes to pure technical skill, there are very few strikers in the league that can match his abilities. I'll say it: MLS lags behind on the top leagues in the world when it comes to this area, and when you throw Larin out there against other competition in the league it shows just how far ahead of other players he is.
As a striker, you're judged on how well you can finish, and Larin is arguably one of the best in the league at finishing shots and hitting his spots to a tee. He scores a lot of "goal scorers goals" with his clinical finishing. He scores almost effortlessly, it seems.
Three goals stand out to me the most from Larin last season, and not because of the importance of the goals, but for staying cool, calm, and collected in a tough situation and still finishing with class.
Against DC United: Look how effortlessly he looks shooting the ball, but fires a upper-90 rocket past Bill Hamid.
Against the Chicago Fire: Larin keeps it together after fumbling on the ground with the ball, gets up, and knocks in the game-tying goal with a beautiful strike around the goalkeeper. The play:
And against New York City FC: Larin collects the through ball just above the box, takes one step, stops, and lasers a shot between two defenders to hit the top shelf. Another beautifully finished goal.
His ability to move with the ball in tight spaces and stay calm in tough situations is a strong suit of his that you don't see in young strikers; it's tough to force him into mistakes.
Does Larin actually have any weaknesses in his game? Of course, everyone does.
While I think his awareness of the field around his is good, there's room for improvement off the ball, but that's not anything incredibly insulting to a kid who's just 20 years old. That awareness will come as he gains experience both in MLS and on the international level with Canada.
Stamina has been an issue as well. We saw it a lot last season, he can tend to disappear late in games and tire out. If you want to create an excuse for that, and it became more accepted as the season wore on and he went into his summer scoring drought: Larin was coming out of college, and starting regularly for Orlando City last season -- plus playing for Canada in the Gold Cup -- he logged more minutes than he ever had in any year of his career, and that can take a toll on any player, especially a young one.
Hopefully having a full year of starting under his belt he'll be better prepared for the long-run, especially during the dog days of summer when Orlando City has 15 games in July, August, and September and capturing points becomes critical.
Larin is a special talent, and at some point bigger clubs are going to start making a push for the Canadian. It's going to take a lot of money to keep Larin in MLS, and he's totally worth getting a Designated Player contract at some point, which I hope happens soon.
Heath thinks Larin can hit 20 goals this season. But c'mon, Adrian, stop aiming so low.
He has 19 goals already in his young career -- eight in his last six MLS starts -- and he's no where near done scoring goals and setting records. Not in this league, not in this game.
Orlando City and Canada found a great one in Cyle Larin.