The chance was at hand for Orlando City to get back into the match on Sunday against New York City FC. A 64th-minute penalty kick was awarded and City’s leading scorer, Cyle Larin, stepped up to try and put the Lions on the board. Unfortunately, the attempt hit the post and stayed out.
Larin’s try from the spot was his first penalty kick attempt in his Major League Soccer career. He joins Carlos Rivas and Julio Baptista as the other two City players to miss a penalty in MLS for Orlando City. Only one player not named Kaká, Kevin Molino, has scored from the spot for the Lions during their years thus far in MLS.
Kaká has been the ever present choice for the Lions. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he scored on eight of his 10 attempts from the spot.
Larin did score a penalty in a 2015 friendly against Brazilian side Ponte Preta. That spot kick was the game winner in stoppage time, but the Canadian revealed a bit of a tell in his postgame comments that night. He said he generally goes for the bottom right corner of the net.
"I always go the same way," Larin said of his penalty. "I might switch it up sometimes, but that's my spot to go at and I just focused on that corner."
On Sunday, Larin again went right, but he tried the top corner and instead found the woodwork. If penalties aren’t his forte, perhaps another option could be found to replace the captain — who doesn’t always have the best placement, but never lacks in confidence — when needed.
Who Should be Given a Chance?
Kaká will likely be subbed off in future matches down the road this season or start games on the bench, as he did Wednesday at San Jose. Thus, a clear replacement for him in penalty kick duties will need to be established. Two players that could be worthy of the task are Giles Barnes and Will Johnson.
Barnes has experience with taking spot kicks as he did so at times for the Houston Dynamo. He replaced Kaká on Sunday night and will likely do so on many more occasions this season. Jason Kreis could consider Barnes in the future for spot kick duty, if a similar situation arises.
Johnson could be another choice. He, like Barnes, has taken spot kicks in MLS before and has converted. A cool and composed veteran player like Johnson would be a viable option for the task.
As the season continues, perhaps City will find a backup option for Kaká. Larin is a fantastic offensive player in his own right, but the leading scorer for a club isn’t always the best option from the spot, particularly if they’ve already given away their favorite target location.
That is not to say Larin can’t develop into a fine finisher on penalties. Everyone misses sometimes. The key is to take them confidently and to hit the target.