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Inside the Opposition: Cyle Larin leads a dynamic Lions attack

After an impressive rookie campaign, Cyle Larin looks to prove that he’s above the dreaded sophomore slump.

Larin dribbles along the sideline in Orlando's draw against the New York Red Bulls.
Larin dribbles along the sideline in Orlando's draw against the New York Red Bulls.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations for expansion teams in any league are lowered, as was the case for Orlando City SC in 2015, their inaugural campaign in MLS. Having to build a team mainly from players acquired in the expansion draft is certainly difficult, and getting to the playoffs seemed unrealistic for the Lions.

However, standout performances from several players make the unlikely seem possible. Cyle Larin, the 1st overall selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, set an all-time rookie goal-scoring record in MLS, notching 17 in his first year with Orlando. Christian Higuita, a starting defensive midfielder in Adrian Heath's standard 4-2-3-1, also had a very impressive season, completing 87% of his passes, as well as averaging 4.3 tackles each game, putting him second in MLS in that regard. While the only obvious superstar on the Orlando roster is one of their three Designated Players, Brazilian international Kaka, Orlando was able to win games on the strength of the supporting cast, an uncommon feat for a team in their first season.

Unfortunately for their supporters, however, Orlando finished 7th in the East, one spot outside of the coveted playoff places. In the offseason, the Orlando front office made several moves to improve their roster: the signings of Italian international Antonio Nocerino, as well as former Brazilian international Julio Baptista have strengthened the Lions' attack even more. After tearing his ACL early in 2015 causing him to miss the majority of last season, Kevin Molino, who played with Orlando in their USL days, leads Orlando in goals with four (Larin also has four).

Orlando's main attacking threat against the Impact will likely come from the wings, where Orlando have an abundance of talent. On top of Nocerino and Molino, who often start as the two attacking wingers in the 4-2-3-1, fullbacks Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos both enjoy attacking along the sidelines. This could prove to be problematic for the Impact, whose wingers are often reluctant to track back into the defensive third, notably Ignacio Piatti, who will likely line up against Ramos. In order for the Impact to find some kind of success against Orlando, it will be key to limit the amount of space given to their wingers, because if they are able to get the ball into the box, Cyle Larin will have no problem putting the ball into the back of the net. Montreal's fullbacks and wingers will have to be aware of Orlando's attacking threat on the flanks in order to improve their chances of earning a point on the road.

How can the Impact break their streak of draws?

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