There’s already been a lot of buzz about Orlando City’s star striker Cyle Larin moving on this season, and for good reason. With three goals through three games, the Canadian star is on track for another stellar season in MLS.
One of the main reasons has been the sheer number of goals he’s scored: 34 goals in 62 league matches is a crazy number. But it gets more impressive when you break it down to shots. In 2017, Larin has made his opportunities count. He’s only taken seven shots through three games, but he’s put five of them on frame and has three goals. He’s unlikely to sustain that level of efficiency — even at his most efficient (2015), he averaged a goal every four shots. Last year, it took him a little over five shots to net a goal. Over the course of both of the last two seasons, just under half of Larin’s shots have been on target. If he drifts back to those averages — which are still among the best in the league — Orlando just won’t be creating enough opportunities to succeed.
Averages by nature can be somewhat deceiving on the surface, especially over so many matches. Playing against varying levels of defenders and the quality of the chances are the biggest mitigating factors at play here, but Cyle has backed them up with results time and again. In his MLS career, he has attempted at least four shots in 15 matches. He has only failed to score in three of those matches, while bagging braces in four. To put it simply, if Orlando gives Larin four attempts, he’s more likely to score two goals than none and is almost as good as guaranteed to score.
Orlando has been lucky that Larin is the best in the league at finishing his chances. On average, he needs just about four shots to score and only half of those are generally on frame. The rest of the league’s elite strikers all need more volume to produce with only the Portland Timbers’ Fanendo Adi coming anywhere close (he needs at least five on average). Sebastian Giovinco, Dom Dwyer, David Villa, and Kei Kamara all need at minimum seven attempts to score and are often taking at least four per match.
Cyle is the only consistent Golden Boot candidate to take fewer than 150 shots since he entered the league. Those numbers are astounding when it comes to Larin’s pure talent, but it begs the question that with such an exceptional talent, why is he only getting two shots per game?
It’s hard to believe that two shots is right in line with Larin’s career numbers with the amount of goals that he’s scored, but generally he’s had more help around him. Kreis has built up a collection of creators to surround his target man, with another potentially on the way in Luis Gil. Since 2015, Kaká, Giles Barnes, Matias Perez Garcia, and Carlos Rivas have managed to collect 48 assists between them. With all of the creative play behind him though, Larin is still only getting those two chances.
It doesn’t help that the weight of Orlando’s offense has been placed on Larin’s shoulders. The Lions have managed 33 shots in 2017, with 11 of those on target, but Larin has half of them by himself. The rest of Orlando City’s attackers haven’t really threatened opposing goalkeepers, in part because the chances being created aren’t spectacular and in part because they aren’t finishing. Will Johnson, Antonio Nocerino, Rivas, and Barnes have combined for 18 shots this year but only four have been on target, one from each. No one on the team outside Larin has been able to put two shots on frame through three matches.
The volume just hasn’t been there for Orlando with the attackers that the Lions have in place. It’s easy to look at the results and pin all of the team’s efforts on one of the best young strikers the league has seen, but he has become a target for opposing defenses. Some of the weight of the offense needs to come off of his shoulders.
The team, as it stands, is full of creators surrounding Larin, but none of them have been able to consistently add goals. Since 2015, the players Kreis can surround Larin with (Kaká, Johnson, Barnes, MPG, and Rivas) have accounted for 38 goals and Kaká has over half of them. It doesn’t help that City lost two of the club’s better goal scorers in Kevin Molino and Julio Baptista. But with Kaká finally back in training, there’s hope that things will improve.
Getting the Brazilian superstar back in action will help. His creativity and ability to draw opposing defenders away from the rest of the team should create more opportunities. But creating is only half the battle and there’s a lack of lethal finishers outside of Larin. Barnes, who has the highest tally of goals in MLS outside the Canadian, generally only puts one-third of his chances on frame. Even at his best, he needed more than 10 attempts before he hit the back of the net and his numbers have steadily dropped since 2014. He’s attempted five shots this year so far playing from the left wing.
The problem is twofold; Larin, for all of the accolades about his talent, isn’t getting the ball enough, while his teammates aren’t testing the opposing keepers enough with their own attempts. There’s a real threat that if Larin were to miss a match for some reason that Orlando’s attack would become impotent, even with Kaká. Someone needs to lift some of the weight from the young Canadian’s shoulders. The talent is there, but the offense needs to put it all together.
Hopefully more time together will solve some of the disjointing issues, but if not, perhaps Orlando should be shopping for a scorer in the summer to pair with Cyle.