By TIM FONTENAULT
Cyle Larin was not ready to leave college after one season.
Despite considerable interest from Major League Soccer, Larin is back at UConn for the 2014 season and a chance at the national championship.
Connecticut returns several key attacking players, including Adria Beso Marco and Allando Matheson, who join Larin on the preseason all-American Athletic Conference team.
As important as these players are to the Huskies’ attack, head coach Ray Reid says that Larin is also able to create for himself. Whether it is through connecting with teammates or creating for himself, Larin needs to step up in his sophomore season. Despite his 14-goal output in 2013, which helped UConn reach its third straight NCAA quarterfinal, Reid believes there is more to offer.
“We need Cyle to have a better year this year than last year,” Reid said at media day on Friday. “He was great for us in the second half of the year; he’s got to be able to go from day one this year.”
Larin’s career at UConn started on a positive note. It only took him 25 minutes to score in the Huskies’ opening win against St. Francis (NY), heading in a goal off a cross from another UConn freshman, longtime youth teammate Kwame Awuah.
He went cold after that, and UConn went cold with him. The Huskies went 2-2-3 over their next seven matches, with only one goal from Larin.
“It was confidence and it was just getting used to the speed of the game and being on my toes all the time and just ready for every ball, and getting used to my team,” Larin said at media day. “I wasn’t used to them, and once I got used I just started scoring more and I was just ready every time.”
Larin rediscovered his scoring boots on Oct. 5, scoring a crucial goal in a 2-2 draw against the University of Central Florida.
Goals became a regular occurrence for Larin after that, and he started turning heads.
Larin finished with the sixth-most goals in the country and helped UConn reach the NCAA quarterfinals. He was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and MLS teams took notice, leading to interest in Larin as a potential Generation Adidas signing.
On top of interest from MLS, his performance also earned Larin a chance with the Canadian national team.
Larin received his first call-up to Canada for training in Florida in January, prior to the start of the spring semester at UConn. In May, Canada head coach Benito Floro called upon Larin again, this time to join the team on a trip to Europe for two friendlies. The 19-year-old made his debut on May 23, coming on as a late substitute against Bulgaria.
Larin has impressed during his time with the Canadian team, and drew a pretty impressive comparison from Floro.
“He reminds me a bit of a young Fernando Morientes,” said Floro, referring to the former Spanish national team and Real Madrid striker Floro coached as a young player. “He has room to grow but you could see from the first camp that he has quality.
“You could already see by his second (Canada) camp that he was more serious and enjoying the competition,” Floro added. “He has the ability to be a very important player for Canada in the future.”
With a blossoming international career with Canada, and his professional soccer prospects looking better by the day, Larin heads into his sophomore season with high expectations, and by all accounts, the ability to meet those expectations.
Think Larin can take UConn even farther this year? Hoping he enters the 2015 MLS draft?
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