Fifteen games into this most unusual of seasons, Toronto FC are led in scoring by two men: An experienced Spanish playmaker who's on the shortlist of 2020 Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidates, and a youthful Canadian-American who's not even a guaranteed starter.
However different the profiles of Alejandro Pozuelo and Ayo Akinola may be, manager Greg Vanney will almost certainly keep leaning on both during a congested stretch run, after each scored in Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.
Akinola could also soon receive an extended opportunity at center forward after US men's national team striker Jozy Altidore left Saturday's game at Rentschler Field in the 53rd minute with an apparent hamstring injury.
With Altidore healthy, the 20-year-old Akinola had carved out a starting wing role. But the five goals he scored at the MLS is Back Tournament in July (while Altidore was recovering from a previous injury) have shown what he can do in the No. 9 spot.
Watch: Akinola's goal against D.C. United on Sept. 19
"He continues to grow, you know?" Vanney said. "He continues to grow. He’s learning every day. He’s got a desire to score goals. On this team, if you have a desire to score goals and work hard in front of the goal, and commit yourself and get your timing right, with the quality of service and the passers we have on our team, you’re going to get chances."
Saturday marked Akinola's third consecutive start, and after his own injury layoff in August, he's scored twice in four games. Both came via what Vanney believes is an underutilized finishing skill in his repertoire.
"I love to see that he scored a goal with his head in the past couple games," Vanney said. "So it’s continuing to just find different ways to put the ball in the back of the net, get his timing right on his runs so that our guys like (Pozuelo, Jonathan Osorio), those guys can pick out his runs. And he’s going to keep getting chances.
"I think he has a super high potential. He’s still going to keep learning and keep working. But he’s got high potential."