By Marco D'Onofrio
Cyle Larin made history before he even stepped foot on a Major League Soccer pitch, and even more when he did. The 20-year-old from Brampton, Ontario not only became Orlando City's first ever MLS SuperDraft pick, he also became the first ever Canadian to go No. 1 overall.
Even though the expansion club signed Honduran striker, Byran Rochez, as the youngest Designated Player in history, Larin was unfazed. He had been one of the best players to ever ply their trade in the NCAA during his two years at the University of Connecticut, and despite Rochez making a lot more money than him, Larin featured in 11 more matches than the Honduran and scored 14 more goals. In fact, Rochez didn't even start a single game all season for Orlando, while Larin started in 24.
With his 17 goals in his debut campaign, Larin crushed the record for most goals scored in a season by a rookie. In 2003, former Jamaican international, Damani Ralph, found the back of the net 11 times, which stood as a rookie record for 11 years. Of course, that was before Larin burst onto the scene though.
Orlando City failed to make the postseason in their first MLS season, but they remained in the playoff picture until the final game of the season, and still finished ahead of their expansion rivals, New York City FC.
Larin's strong inaugural season playing professional soccer was rewarded a couple of weeks ago, when he was named the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year. Truth be told, there was nobody else even in contention for the award after the numbers Larin put up this year.
Along with a stellar domestic season, the 20-year-old also became a crucial part of his country's national team. He featured in all three of Canada's matches during the CONCACAF Gold Cup that took place in the summer, as well as, in six World Cup qualifiers already. His game-winner against Honduras last Friday, has Canada in second place in their World Cup qualifying group.
Needless to say, the youngster has proven he can handle the pressure that has already been placed on his shoulders by both his club and country. He remains ambitious though, as he refuses to rest on his laurels.
"There are always more goals to reach," Larin said in an interview with MLSsoccer.com. "I want to follow up what I did this year by winning something with my team and getting a championship. The next thing is to be the top goal scorer in the league itself and, if I keep doing the things I did this year and working hard in the offseason, I think that's something I can achieve.
Larin will need to continue to deliver in both league play and World Cup qualifying, as both Orlando and Canada will be relying heavily on the 20-year-old's services come 2016.