Richie Laryea, top Canadian MLS draft pick, reunites with Cyle Larin
7th pick overall will join best friend in Orlando City
The MLS SuperDraft unfolded beautifully Thursday for Toronto midfielder Richie Laryea.
After a series of deals reshuffled the top of the draft, the University of Akron sophomore went seventh overall to Orlando City where he will be reunited with friend and fellow Canuck Cyle Larin.
The two talked the day before the draft, keeping their fingers crossed that they could be roommates next season.
"It's amazing ... Cyle's been my best friend ever since I was nine," said Laryea, who just turned 21. "It's going to be good."
How emotional was Laryea when his name was called at the Baltimore Convention Center podium?
"I started crying a bit," he confessed. "Then my mom told me to man up."
Larin, the first overall pick in last year's draft, was named rookie of the year in 2015 after scoring a rookie-record 17 goals.
"Boom!! Congrats RichieLaryea — see you in Orlando soon," Larin tweeted.
Chicago, which came into the draft with just 14 players under contract, had the top overall pick and was widely expected to deal it in order to get more assets.
The Fire held onto the pick, at least briefly, selecting Wake Forest midfielder Jack Harrison. Chicago then dealt him to New York City FC for allocation money and the fourth overall pick, which it used to take Stanford fullback Brandon Vincent.
Both come highly touted.
The Philadelphia Union were also busy. Already in possession of the third and sixth picks, they acquired the second selection from Colorado for allocation money and a player to be named later.
The Union used the second and third picks on Georgetown defenders Josh Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry and the sixth on Creighton midfielder Fabian Herbers. The Ghanaian-born Yaro was expected to go first overall by many observers.
Real Salt Lake took North Carolina midfielder Omar Holness fifth.
Toronto FC chose Japanese midfielder Tsubasa Endoh from the University of Maryland ninth overall while Montreal opted for Clemson centre back Kyle Fisher 14th and the Vancouver Whitecaps picked Georgetown defender Cole Seiler 16th.
In Orlando, Lareau can learn his trade alongside Brazilian star Kaka. Coach Adrian Heath believes the young Canadian can help the Orlando attack in a number of areas.
"We just think his upside is enormous," said Heath. "We've watched him very very closely.
"Obviously [there's] the fact that he's big friends with Cyle. We've know about him for a long long time. He and Cyle go back a long way. We just hope he has the same impact that Cyle's had. If he does, we'll have a very good first pick."
Laryea and Larin both came up through the Sigma FC club system in Toronto, joining from rival teams. The two didn't much like each other at first but that soon changed as they developed links on and off the field.
"I think I've given him a fair number of assists while playing," Laryea said with a smile.
Pacey with good vision, the five-foot-nine 150-pounder is coming off a breakthrough season at Akron where he scored a team-high 11 goals and added seven assists.
That was good enough to get him a Generation Adidas deal, which earned him underclassman entry into the draft along with a contract that does not count against a team's salary cap.
The first two rounds went Thursday with Rounds 3 and 4 held via conference call on Jan. 19.
Canadians who could draw attention then are Kentucky goalkeeper Callum Irving (Vancouver), Bowling Green midfielder Ryan James (Mississauga, Ont.) and Washington midfielder Josh Heard (Victoria).
Laryea, Harrison, Herbers, Holness and Yaro were all members of the Generation Adidas class, along with Clemson goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell (who went eighth to San Jose) and Syracuse midfielder Julian Buescher (11th to D.C. United).
Irving and Fisher signed contracts with the league on the eve of the draft. Others to sign prior to the draft were North Carolina defender Jonathan Campbell (12th to Chicago), Central Florida forward Hadji Barry (13th to Orlando), Syracuse forward Ben Polk (20th to Portland) and Virginia midfielder Todd Wharton.
This year's crop was billed as heavy on defenders and midfielders and the draft proved that.
The first forward taken was Barry — after six defenders, five midfielders and a goalkeeper.
Players were taken from 10 countries: Canada, the U.S., Jamaica, England, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Belize.