Cyle Larin, Tesho Akindele Give Canada Men's National Team Hope for the Future

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2015

May 17, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin (21) reacts after he scored a goal during the first half against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Canada's men's national team head coach Benito Floro was hired to usher in a new generation of Canadian players. Floro has since included the likes of the Vancouver Whitecaps' Russell Teibert, Toronto FC's Jonathan Osorio and West Ham's Doneil Henry. The Les Rouges haven't had a talismanic striker for a few years, but those days are over.

Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin and FC Dallas' Tesho Akindele both started against Dominica in the first leg of their second-round World Cup qualifying matchup on Thursday. It was Akindele's senior debut, which officially tied him to Canada.

Larin bagged his second goal for Canada in the win, and Teibert converted the winner from the penalty spot to secure the 2-0 victory. Dominica is not a soccer hotbed, but it was significant seeing two youngsters scoring for the Canadians.

Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76

Cyle Larin is good. I know it's "just" Dominica, but I don't care. He's good.

Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76

Also: Another reminder that OCSC had the No. 1 pick very much on the trading block this winter. Larin could've been had.

Akindele didn't get on the scoresheet, but he still impressed on Thursday night. He was involved in the buildup and showed off his tremendous work rate on both sides of the pitch.

Seeing Akindele, Larin and Teibert clicking up front was a far cry from a year ago, when Canada was snapping a 14-month scoring drought.

With the Gold Cup beginning on July 7, with Larin and Akindele in the ranks, Canada actually has a chance of progressing to the knockout stages. It will be difficult with Costa Rica, Jamaica and El Salvador in its group, but it's not an impossible task.

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Larin—the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft—is only going to improve as he earns more minutes with Orlando. The 20-year-old already has 5 goals in 11 appearances, which is a splendid output for a rookie.

Akindele, 2014's MLS Rookie of the Year, has been a regular starter for Dallas so far this season. He's appeared in every match for the Hoops in 2015, scoring three goals in the process. The 23-year-old has played on both flanks, as a No. 10 and as a lone striker, which demonstrates his tactical flexibility.

Tesho Akindele was the first FC Dallas player to win MLS Rookie of the Year.
Tesho Akindele was the first FC Dallas player to win MLS Rookie of the Year.LM Otero/Associated Press

Teibert has also been deployed in several different positions over the years with the Whitecaps. He's a natural winger but was converted to left-back in 2011. He eventually moved to the right side as an attack-minded forward before settling in the heart of midfield beside Matias Laba.

The Whitecaps academy graduate has a tenacious attitude and has already worn the captain's armband for Vancouver at just 22 years old. His maturity has clearly paid dividends now that he's become a key player for head coach Carl Robinson.

Teibert normally plays as a No. 10 or out wide for his country, but he has the speed, technique and vision to excel in an advanced role. He can also track back and defend, which gives the back line some relief.

Russell Teibert played in three different positions before slotting into a deep-lying role in the heart of midfield.
Russell Teibert played in three different positions before slotting into a deep-lying role in the heart of midfield.Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Osorio is a regular for TFC, while defender Karl Ouimette has recently shown improvement with the New York Red Bulls. Henry is also poised for greatness after securing a move to the Premier League.

Though it's pleasing for Canadians to see these young players coming through the national team, the squad is incomplete compared to CONCACAF rivals. 

Milan Borjan is a decent shot-stopper, but he doesn't engender the confidence top-tier CONCACAF goalkeepers do for the U.S. and Mexico, among others. This was evident against Dominica when he was sent off for handling the ball outside the box.

Eighteen-year-old Whitecaps homegrown product Marco Carducci was a standout in last year's Canadian Championship semifinals against TFC. Carducci is a potential option for the future, but he needs more competitive games under his belt to solidify himself as Canada's No. 1.

Midfielder Julian De Guzman, now 34 years old, also looks out of his element. However, there isn't a viable replacement with his level of experience who can claim his spot.

Atiba Hutchinson is still one of the nation's best players, but he's 32 years old. Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay could be a possible replacement if he decides to represent Canada, but he's still on the fence.

Despite those concerns, there are several talented Canadian youngsters coming through MLS academies. Now that Vancouver, Toronto and the Montreal Impact have USL affiliates, those kids will be able to play meaningful games and push for a first-team spot.

It may take a few years for the national team to reap those rewards, but with the young nucleus already in place, the future is finally looking bright for Canadian soccer.

Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @GalindoPW.

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