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The Cyle Larin Circus is a Colossal Shame

The path that Larin chose stinks for everyone involved.

It didn’t have to end like this. Cyle Larin could have gone down as one of the true legends in Orlando City history, but, sadly, that ship has sailed and is never coming back. This recent bull-in-a-China-shop approach to exiting Orlando has alienated virtually everyone but Larin’s closest friends and tarnished an extraordinary legacy that now seems beyond any hope of repair.

Orlando City fans feel scorned, the club has had its hand forced to accelerate something it was going to do anyway — and now may suffer financially for it in terms of reduced returns — and even fans of other MLS clubs have weighed in with sympathy for the way this has gone down. The bridges surrounding Orlando have been well and truly burnt to the ground by Larin and his agent, who opted to take their desire to leave immediately after the 2017 season to the media rather than to the club’s general manager, coaches, and upper management.

There’s no foreseeable road back to Orlando for Larin — not as a player and not after retirement as a conquering hero. Even if FIFA recognizes that Larin is still under contract and Besiktas is denied his availability, there’s no way he’ll pull on a purple jersey again. His chosen methods have seen to that. If you’re Jason Kreis, you can’t trust him to put in any kind of shift for you. If you’re management, you’d probably rather suspend him than anything else after this. And who in the stands would cheer for him?

At one point, it was everybody.

Larin was the team’s first ever draft pick, led the team in goals for the first three years in MLS, won the first major league award for the team — the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year — and produced the team’s first top-flight hat trick. In fact, he bagged the first two, and to date is still the only Lion to score thrice in an MLS game. He also represented City in the MLS All-Star Game and scored the first goal in a competitive game in the club’s new stadium — a game-winner against hated fellow 2015 expansion side New York City FC. These are the kinds of accomplishments that lift players above the rest in the hearts and minds of a club’s supporters.

Now, his legend status will never come, as the bad taste of this ongoing forced exit will leave fans with memories of only the petulant way he chose to leave and his DUI arrest during his final season in Orlando. That was surely a colossal error in judgment but not one he couldn’t have gotten past.

The eventual sale of Larin was always going to happen after his 17-goal outburst in 2015. We talked on this site about when (not if) Larin would be sold as far back as that season. But MLS rules make it bad business to sell a player in the first two years, as the club reaps only half of the fee before the completion of the player’s third year.

After 2017, the club was finally positioned to find a buyer for the Canadian international. Larin and his agent decided to find their own buyer in Besiktas, not only without consulting Orlando City, but in outright direct defiance of the club. They’re choosing to ignore the club’s two (standard) option years less than a year after doubling down on acknowledging the validity of those two years.

However this plays out, it’s bad for everyone. Larin will eventually get the exit he seeks, but this tactic will not only delay it, but also could potentially result in an extended period without being on the field. Larin’s agency, Nick Mavromaras & Costa Smyrniotis, which also represents Richie Laryea (per will find it much more difficult to deal with the Lions, and potentially other MLS clubs, in the future. And it’s probably not helpful for Laryea’s long-term presence in Orlando.

On the club level, Orlando City will almost assuredly not get the transfer fee it was seeking (in the $5 million range, per multiple sources) and could be out legal fees as well.

And the ringmasters of this circus at Besiktas will likely have legal fees of their own, in addition to potentially not having the player available for some time. Relations between the Turkish club and Major League Soccer are potentially broken beyond repair. (Remember, because Major League Soccer is a single-entity league, if you screw over one team, you’ve done it to the entirety of MLS.)

Meanwhile, Orlando City fans have seen pictures on social media of Larin getting a physical, posing for pictures in a Besiktas jersey, and attending games in Turkey while those players who are legally and legitimately his teammates are training for the upcoming 2018 MLS season. The energy of the Cyle hate on Twitter alone could fuel a major metropolitan city for 10 years.

Everyone has lost in some fashion due to the strategy that Larin has employed — the fans, the club, Besiktas, Mavromaras & Smyrniotis, and Larin himself. The whole thing is a mess and could easily have been avoided. And it bears repeating: Larin was going to be sold to a European club anyway. Just a little more patience and a lot less ego and this all could have been a happy departure.

Larin should have been a guy with his name in an eventual Orlando City ring of honor, regardless of how the rest of his career plays out. He was “the guy” at City for its first three seasons of MLS existence. He set club records, won league awards, and earned the adoration of the purple-clad masses in the stands. He set the standards that other players must eventually surpass to set the bar higher. He’s the guy we oldtimers would look back on years from now and fondly remember. All of that is gone now. He’s become persona non grata in Orlando and it’s really too bad.

It didn’t have to end like this.