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Player Spotlight: Reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Larin unafraid of sophomore slump

Cyle Larin's 2015 was a whirlwind.

He was selected first overall in the Major League Soccer draft by expansion side Orlando City, proceeded to shatter the league's rookie scoring record with 17 goals, claimed the MLS Rookie of the Year award, and established himself as Canada's go-to striker under national team head coach Benito Floro.

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Not bad for a 20-year-old.

It would be tough to expect more out of a player after such a huge first year as a professional, but Larin himself wants 2016 to be bigger and better.

"For me it's scoring goals and winning a championship with my club, and with my country to just go far in the Hex," Larin told Goal Canada when asked about his personal goals for the upcoming season.

"I want to do great things for Canada and help them out. And for [the] club I just want to give something back to the city, because they deserve a lot. The fan base is really great and I think if we do something for them, win something for them, it'd be great."

A soft-spoken young man, Larin gets right to the point when conducting interviews with the media. His play on the pitch is similar, as the Brampton, Ont., native often surprises opposing defenses with his quick release and knack for popping up in the right places in front of goal, despite a hard-to-miss 6-foot-2 frame.

Surprising the opposition is something that Larin can't count on this year, however, as MLS teams now have an entire season's worth of game tape to study when preparing to face the young Canadian. More familiarity from the opposition often leads to the famed "sophomore slump" which has plagued second-year players throughout the history of professional team sports.

Larin isn't losing sleep over the prospect of it happening to him, though.

"I'm not worried about it," Larin said. "I'm just motivated not to get to that point and just to keep working harder this season, and [to] make sure I do the things I need to do to score."

His coach at Orlando, Adrian Heath, shares Larin's lack of concern over a potential sophomore slump. The bench boss listed Larin's dedication off the pitch and his return to preseason camp "in really good condition" as reasons why the 20-year-old could overcome the second-year curse.

"For me that's just talk," Heath said. "I think that if Cyle works hard, comes in every day trying to be as good as he can, tries to get better every day, [and] works as hard as he can, I don't see any reason why Cyle can't have the season this year that he's just had."

Heath added: "We can't afford for Cyle to rest on his laurels and we're not going to let him do that."

For his part, Larin noted that while the rest of the league is now more familiar with his play, the reverse is also true. With a full season of MLS action under his belt, he's ready to dive in head first without a rookie learning curve.

"Now I know what to expect, and last year I didn't," Larin said. "I'm ready to play in this league and score goals again this year."

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