Don’t forget about me: Mason Toye sends CF Montréal to first in Eastern Conference

Mason Toye's match-winning brace Wednesday night at Seattle Sounders FC had been a long time coming.

The 23-year-old striker got his first goals of the 2022 season in a 2-1 victory at Lumen Field, setting up CF Montréal for a statement result at the Concacaf Champions League winners. It booked them sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference standings, ahead of the Philadelphia Union on the total wins tiebreaker (29 points each through 17 matches).

On a more personal level, it's a welcome return to form for Toye after undergoing shoulder surgery last summer, prompting a nearly 10-month road to recovery.

"I'm really, really happy to be a part of this club," Toye said after a 63-minute shift. "Everybody was so supportive while I was in my rehab process. ... Just knowing that they still had confidence in me for when I made my return, that was great for me to continue to press and continue to work hard every day to try to get back as quick as possible. I'm really thankful that I'm able to be a part of a club like this."

It wasn't that long ago that Toye was widely regarded as one of the more promising domestic forwards in MLS, even prompting some US men's national team buzz. But his time in Montréal hasn't gone according to plan lately, to put it lightly – and those murmurs have faded over time.

After breaking out at Minnesota United FC, Toye was traded to Montréal late in the 2020 season for a sizeable fee, with $600,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and a second-round SuperDraft pick sent to the Loons for his services. But then difficult news pushed Toye to the periphery before he logged his first appearance since Aug. 14, 2021 just last weekend, a 12-minute substitute appearance vs. Charlotte FC. His start in Seattle was just his 13th in nearly two years in Montréal.

His 18th- and 62nd-minute goals on Wednesday night reminded MLS of why, just a year ago, he was one of the most intriguing prospects around the league.

"When I went to Minnesota United\], I was really looking forward to playing with Mason," admitted striker [Kei Kamara after the match. Kamara assisted both of Toye's goals in Seattle. "I used to watch him, and I used to tell him I like the way he plays. It reminds me of me in the box. ... He's a good player. We're so happy for him. It's hard, not just physically but mentally for anyone to be out of the game that long. To be able to come back and be ready, this is the start that I wish for any striker."

Toye's full return from injury was a deserved reward for his hard work. He scored two goals in two very different ways. The first was a driven left-footed scorcher, while the second was a close-range finish after a clever bit of movement in the box. They showed the type of qualities that excited pundits and coaches alike; natural athleticism, intelligent movement and an instinctive ability to find the goal.

FC Dallas's Jesus Ferreira has blossomed into a key player before the Qatar 2022 World Cup. FC Cincinnati's Brandon Vazquez and San Jose's Jeremy Ebobisse are towards the top of the MLS scoring charts and have put their names firmly in USMNT discussions, too. It's not hard to imagine a healthy and in-form Toye in that same sphere.

"My main focus is to improve as a soccer player, in all aspects of my game, and as a person," said Toye. "As long as I continue to focus on the process of becoming a better player and a better person every day, I have no doubt that I'll continue to score plenty of goals."