TORONTO – It’s not as though Cyle Larin has been a prickly thorn in the side of Toronto FC.
In seven all-time Major League Soccer appearances against Toronto, Larin has scored two goals and tallied one assist for Orlando City – a respectable haul for the Canadian forward, but not exactly big numbers, either.
Still, TFC coach Greg Vanney maintains the Reds have to be aware of Larin at all times when they take on Orlando on Wednesday night in the finale of a two-game road trip.
A native of Brampton, Ont., Larin leads the Florida club in scoring this season with eight goals (including five game-winners) in 16 starts. At 22, Larin is considered one of the brightest prospects in the league, winning the MLS Rookie of the Year award in 2015, and scoring 31 goals over the previous two seasons.
Such is Larin’s quality that he’s been linked with moves to a number of big teams from abroad, with the general consensus being that it’s only a matter of time before the talented Canadian makes the jump to play in Europe.
For the time being, though, Larin remains a concern for TFC ahead of Wednesday’s game in Orlando. At six-foot-two and 190 pounds, the Canadian combines power and speed, and he uses those physical attributes to great effect, according to Toronto’s coach.
“If they were to look to play us on the counter, Cyle is a big guy who can be a target, but he’s also a guy who if there’s space in behind [defenders], he’ll run out into those channels. He does a good job of using his size and speed and ability to cover ground, to get into good positions, and to hold up the ball and bring people into the game,” Vanney explained.
Vanney argues that the key to stopping Larin, or at the very least minimizing his influence on a game, is to make sure he doesn’t have free space to run into and exploit.
“For me, the biggest thing with Cyle is always knowing where he is when the ball gets into areas [where the ball can be played into him],” Vanney explained.
“He works well in the box in terms of finding his space and timing his runs, and he’s a big body. I’m less concerned about Cyle when the ball is at his feet and more concerned about him when he’s running and they’ve got guys who can get the ball into him.”
Larin made headlines last month for all the wrong reasons when he was arrested on a drunk driving charge in Orlando. He underwent an assessment by MLS’ Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Program. The Canadian star ended up missing three MLS games as he went through the program before being cleared by the league to return to action.
He played a full 90 minutes in Orlando’s 1-0 road win over Real Salt Lake last weekend.
“I’m sure he hasn’t changed as a player over the course of the two weeks that he was away. We still have to be very aware of the specific things that he’s good at,” Vanney warned.
BEITASHOUR, MORROW UPDATES
Vanney confirmed that right fullback Steven Beitashour remains in a Toronto hospital after undergoing abdominal surgery last week for an injured pancreas.
Vanney said Beitashour is progressing well, but there’s still no firm timeline as to when he can return to action.
“When he gets out of the hospital … then he’ll be in a stage where he can physically recover and train in a progressive state, so long as he feels good,” Vanney revealed.
“The challenge is that we have to keep him in a safe environment in terms of contact. We can’t risk him [getting] in a collision for an amount of time that we’re uncertain about. There’s a time period where we have to allow for things to heal in the inside and contact would be dangerous for him.”
Left fullback Justin Morrow missed Toronto’s 3-1 road loss to FC Dallas on Saturday as he was away with the U.S. national team preparing for this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Morrow didn’t play for the U.S. in a tune-up game against Ghana in Connecticut on the weekend due to a muscle strain.
Vanney said that was a precautionary move, and that TFC is waiting to hear back from the American camp with the results of an MRI test on Morrow, whose lone cap for the U.S. team came in 2013.
“By all accounts it’s something that’s minor. Hopefully for his sake it’s something that he can get over to get his opportunity [to play at the Gold Cup],” Vanney said.
NEWS AND NOTES
‘TFC will be without midfielders Raheem Edwards and Jonathan Osorio, and forward Tosaint Ricketts for Wednesday’s match – they’re away on international duty with Canada ahead of the Gold Cup.
The Reds are also missing winger Armando Cooper, who’s with the Panama national team.
Midfielder Victor Vazquez is available for selection against Orlando after missing the game in Dallas due to personal reasons.
MLS goes on a break next week due to the Gold Cup. TFC returns to action when it visits New York City FC on July 19.