Cyle Larin: A Silver Lining To A Lost Season?

Updated: May 20, 2018

For Cyle Larin and his new teammates, the 2017/18 Beşiktaş season has come to close. A fantastic Champion’s League campaign marked by a historic run to the round of 16 was what should have been the headliner. A lively, successful, fan-backed #ComeToBeşiktaş campaign (that truly served to put the team on the map abroad) should have contributed to what would be considered a very successful season for the club all-around as well. While both were noteworthy, they weren’t enough to overshadow a fourth-placed finish in the standings that will see Beşiktaş having to play a round of playoff football just to get into the Europa League – a far cry from the heights of Champion’s League glory they were enjoying only a couple of months ago. Those feel-good stories feel like they played out an eternity ago already to most Beşiktaş fans.

As the team wrapped up the season at home at Vodafone Park against Sivasspor, heads were hung low and those exiting the squad for good especially seemed to have a bitter taste left in their mouths – more was expected of this team. Funny considering the team was leaving the pitch 5-1 winners against a Sivas team that had been no slouch all season, finishing in a very respectable 7th place, lead by former Beşiktaş coach Samet Aybaba.

Defender Dusko Tosic, on his way to China, said his goodbyes to the Beşiktaş faithful pre-game. Talisca’s departure was made public and all but official in post-match interviews. Worse still, cornerstone players like Atiba Hutchinson and Quaresma didn’t even finish the season in the team, both being rested – Quaresma for the benefit of his Portugal NT perhaps, soon to feature in this summer’s World Cup in Russia. All was not well.

With all that said, the somber tone was slightly diminished by one performance that was bringing giddy, raving reviews from a fanbase hungry for some good news to go home for the summer with; Cyle Larin had absolutely starred in the season’s final match, and in a season marred by poor to non-existent forward play, particularly late on in the season after Cenk Tosun’s untimely departure, the young Canadian’s performance had brought a bit of relief to all who’d seen him play.

So who is Cyle Larin, and what can we realistically expect from him going forward? Let’s take a deep dive:

Life Before Beşiktaş

Cyle Larin’s humble beginnings trace back to his days in the semi-pro Canadian League1 Ontario, where he played for Sigma FC, a Mississauga-based club situated in the suburbs of Toronto. He joined the team at just 11 and as a youth trained with the likes of Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin, and Wolfsburg in Germany, as well as Racing Genk and Club Brugge in Belgium. He ultimately played two seasons at the University of Connecticut in the US before getting snapped up by the MLS, where he was selected first in their ‘draft’ by Orlando City SC.

He’d make 87 appearances, scoring 43 goals over 3 seasons with the young franchise, establishing himself as an attacking force to be reckoned with. He wouldn’t be long for the MLS, as he announced following his third season that he’d be leaving the club to seek the challenge of European football upon the season’s completion. Having already made more than 20 appearances for his national team (and scoring 5 goals for Canada), the time had come for him to seek a bigger challenge; Beşiktaş signed him for a mere £1.67m, in keeping with the club’s recent policy of not breaking the bank as they had in previous (ironically less successful) years past.

Cyle Larin with famous Orlando City teammate Kaká, who he played with for three seasons.

#ComeToBeşiktaş… via Brampton, Ontario?

Brampton, Ontario is an unlikely hub for Beşiktaş, and yet not only is Larin a native of the city, but so is Atiba Hutchinson, who since joining Beşiktaş in 2013 has all but become a club legend. Not only has Hutchinson become a fan favorite, he’s also been an outstanding performer who has a reputation for putting his all into every match. Their shared roots likely enticed most Beşiktaş fans – Hutchinson had already asserted himself as a team leader, so it was easy to imagine him taking his fellow Brampton-native under his wing and helping guide him to ‘better days ahead.’ Indeed, Larin cited him as making the transition to Turkey easier when he first arrived.

Larin & Hutchinson suited up for Canada’s NT

“He’s made it easier,” Larin said of Hutchinson. “Atiba’s there and has been there for a couple years. It’s good. He’s helped me a lot in making my move there and settling in and being comfortable.”

Success On The Pitch

Wagner Love, who was signed alongside Cyle Larin, stole the spotlight early on and many had forgotten about the young transfer.

On April 7th, Cyle Larin debuted, subbing into a match against Göztepe that was already pretty much set at 4-1 in Beşiktaş’ favor. Hungry to make an impact however, he scored almost immediately despite being given only 7 minutes of playing time, and fans’ interest was piqued.  Having been signed alongside Wagner Love, and also playing behind Álvaro Negredo, most assumed he wouldn’t get much playing time at all, and given how much was at stake at that juncture of the season, he was easy to overlook.

He wouldn’t appear again until May 7th, exactly a full month later, and even then, he was only given one minute of playing time, in the dying embers of an important 2-0 victory over Kayserispor (important in staying alive in the race for Champion’s League football next season). He’d play 65 minutes the following week against Osmanli, getting his first significant playing time. Without making the immediate impact of his first appearance, it was easy for fans again to look past what wasn’t a particularly impressive performance, even if he was active and clearly willing to engage in the team’s attack.

Final Match Day

And so the stage was set for the final macthday. In the two games prior, both of which he’d played in and they’d won, nothing had budged in the standings. Results elsewhere in the league conspired against Beşiktaş and the title was already out of reach. Still though, with the chance of both Fenerbahçe or Başakşehir slipping on the final matchday, and the chance to spring vault into the champion’s league in dramatic fashion still very much alive, a lot was theoretically at stake – even with the odds stacked against Beşiktaş. Placing faith in the young Cyle Larin was gutsy on the part of coach Senol Güneş, and the risk looked foolhardy early on.

As in his match against Osmanli, Larin was very lively, and seemed to find ease getting into scoring positions, but his final touch was lacking. Composure and confidence seemed in short supply, and yet still even then enough had been put on display that most Beşiktaş fans were content that his activity at least signaled something to hope for going forward. His second half would put even more smiles on those faces.

In the 50th minute he attacked incisively and a perfectly weighted cross off a corner by Talisca (a sight Beşiktaş will come to miss for sure) was met by Larin’s head perfectly and he extended the team’s lead to 2-0. 24 minutes later he’d double his tally with an even more impressive goal, making the score 3-1; an important goal in staving off a comeback. Larin charged forward, staying onside on the right wing, and his pace left him in a one-on-one with the keeper from an awkward angle. Sivas keeper Ali Şaşal Vural clumsily attempted to charge the ball but the vibrant Canadian slyly rounded him, tapping it in cooly and accurately from a bit of distance.

As the #ComeToBeşiktaş theme song blared in the stadium, players celebrating exuberantly, for a brief moment Beşiktaş fans were again transported to a happier time earlier in the year, when this season had held so much promise. Larin’s third, to secure the hat-trick was a total fluke – a hard shot by Talisca ricocheted off him and into the goal, giving him an unorthodox, but quite welcome hat-trick.

What’s Next?

Cyle Larin’s performance late in the season actually was well timed in its own way. While Negredo and Love lost steam as the season carried on and even served as blemishes on what has otherwise seemed a very wise and astute Beşiktaş front office in recent seasons, Cyle Larin provided a clear silver lining, not only to the season as a whole, but to the work done by that front office. He also poses an interesting question going into next season:

Do we need a big name primary striker who we can rely on for a big season, or are we now content settling on slightly less, in the hopes that Larin can make a larger contribution?

I suspect the answer lies somewhere in that fabled grey area. With Talisca leaving, the man who made the failure of our forwards easier to swallow is leaving as well, so there’s no doubt we’ll need a striker who can be counted on to apply a good finishing touch when needed beyond the potential of Cyle Larin. But there’s also no doubt that we can also expect to see Larin be given some opportunity to prove himself after his 4 goals in 4 appearances this season, and particularly after the sizzling hat-trick that he concluded the season with.

As always, stay tuned – an important transfer season approaches, and with it some of our answers re: everyone’s favorite new Canadian striker ‘on the European side’ of Istanbul.

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Sinan Schwarting

Sinan is a life-long Beşiktaş fan. He hosts the Black Eagles Podcast, as well as writing fiction (he is just completing his first project - look out for it!), and forever suffering as a Knicks fan.
Sinan Schwarting
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