Canadian striker Cyle Larin has shown he belongs in Major League Soccer with 31 goals in his first two seasons. But the young Orlando City star has his sights farther afield down the line.
“I’ve always wanted to play in Europe â€” either it’s now or it’s later ,” the 21-year-old from Brampton, Ont., told a recent MLS media roundtable in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “But I think when the time is right, I’ll go.
“I mean everyone wants to play in the English Premier League or (Spain’s) La Liga, the best players are there. Or the other great teams in Europe or the European Champions League. One day I’ll be there. I have dreams to play there. When the time’s right.”
Orlando captain Kaka has no doubts Larin can cut it in Europe.
“Cyle is a very good player,” said the veteran Brazilian international. “The third season (with Larin) for us will be great but I think Cyle can play in a big team in Europe as well.”
Larin left UConn after his sophomore year and was selected first overall by Orlando in the 2015 draft. The six-foot-two 190-pounder scored 17 goals to win rookie of the year honours.
The Canadian international kept rolling last season, with 14 goals and three assists. He was named to the MLS all-star game.
“Cyle is a big surprise, because the second season normally is the worst one for the young guys,” said Kaka. “Because everybody knows him, the way that he plays. The marking is different … And he had a very good season. He scored a lot of goals. I think Cyle can go a long way.”
The soft-spoken Larin attributed his sophomore season success to the way he put in in the off-season.
“I came to the season ready. The more games I played, I can’t say it got easier (but) things just started clicking. And when it starts clicking, I start scoring. And then it just feels like I’m having fun. And when I’m having fun, I start scoring.
“And Kaka’s been a great leader for me. He’s just been teaching me every day … Even if I score, he said I could have done this better. He’s always teaching me.”
Larin says he’s adding things to his game “every day.”
The big Canadian has a knack for finding space in the penalty box â€” and putting the ball away.
Other teams have taken notice.
Reports last year linked Larin to Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic, Italy’s Lazio, Norway’s Molde and Portugal’s Benfica with one Portuguese sports tabloid putting the Canadian on its cover.
Larin, who made US$177,000 last season according to the MLS Players Union, spent most of the off-season training in Orlando.
“I think we’re making the right moves,” he said of Orlando. “We have a strong core of players and I think it’s just adding the little pieces and I think that’s what they’re doing.”
“I think we have a great group,” he added.
Two of Larin’s UConn teammates were picked in the first round of the recent MLS SuperDraft. The Vancouver Whitecaps took fullback Jake Nerwinski, who roomed with Larin as a freshman, while New York City FC chose Canadian fullback-midfielder Kwame Awuah.
An injury kept Larin from the current Canadian national team’s camp in Florida and game Sunday in Bermuda. But he is optimistic about Canada’s future.
“Benito Floro helped us a lot when he was here. He changed the structure of the program,” Larin said of the former Canadian head coach. “Looking forward, we have great young players.”
Larin has five goals in 19 appearances for Canada.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press