The last two months have been rough for Cyle Larin. Orlando City SC’s forward not only saw his production decline over the last 60 days, scoring only twice in the last 10 matches, but he was also involved in a DUI arrest that sidelined him for three matches.
Cleared to play by MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) Program doctors, the Canadian striker might return to the field this Friday against Real Salt Lake. And he probably could not have a better situation in front of him to make everybody forget his recent struggles.
Considering his off-field situation, it is fair to say that Larin will probably feel more comfortable on returning to action in a road game, where his suspension will not be the main subject and he will not be scrutinized by the local media that covers the Lions.
If the match were to be played at Orlando City Stadium, Larin would be under pressure by the fans to perform after making the headlines for the wrong reasons and pressure is everything the 22-year-old Canadian does not need now, especially after being left out of Canada’s roster for the Gold Cup.
Enter Real Salt Lake, a team he amassed a goal and an assist against the only time he played them, in last year’s season opener.
Head Coach Jason Kreis’ former team has not been solid defensively at all in 2017. The club, which ranks 10th in the Western Conference, has the second-worst defense in MLS, with 37 goals conceded, only one fewer than Minnesota United. Over the last five games, RSL’s goalkeeper was beaten by the opposition 17 times and the club has fired its goalkeeper coach.
The team also struggled with several injuries that plagued its defensive system. Having Justen Glad back from the U.S. U-20 National Team helped as RSL’s back line showed a slight improvement since he returned, but Head Coach Mike Petke clearly still has a lot to do there.
Larin’s presence was missed on the field, as despite having scored four goals, the team collected only two points during his absence. He also returns in a moment when he’s needed most, as Carlos Rivas sprained his ankle last Saturday against the Chicago Fire and is doubtful for Friday’s match.
“Obviously, [he] had a week of rest or 10 days of rest,” Kreis said to The Orlando Sentinel after Larin’s return to the team’s training sessions, on Tuesday. “Pretty good energy, which is nice to see.”
The scenario is built for Larin to return. A good performance on the road could not only help to put his problems behind him but also make the forward regain the form he displayed in the first weeks of the season. And that would be much appreciated by Orlando City and its fans.