Mason Toye - Minnesota United - September 9, 2020

Mason Toye has had to wait patiently for his chance in 2020, weathering — as everyone in soccer has — the effects of a global pandemic while also watching as Minnesota United brought in two No. 9s to compete with him in the offseason.

Now, with both Luis Amarilla and Aaron Schoenfeld nursing injuries, the 21-year-old forward is getting some time to impress as Minnesota's lone healthy striker, and on Wednesday night he took full advantage of it. Toye bagged the opening goal in the Loons' 3-2 win over FC Dallas, slotting a smart left-footed finish underneath FCD 'keeper Kyle Zobeck in the 11th minute. It could prove to be an inflection point for Toye, who had not hit the back of the net in either of his two previous starts.

“Obviously it’s been a big opportunity for me, being our only healthy No. 9 at the moment," Toye said after the game. “I’m just trying to continue to score goals and help the team any way I can and prove when everyone gets healthy that I can be our starter.”

The goal was Toye's first of the regular season (he also scored a consolation goal off the bench in Minnesota's semifinal loss to Orlando at the MLS is Back Tournament), and a welcome sight for all involved as he looks to build on a 2019 campaign that saw him register six goals and three assists across 820 minutes, just shy of goal or an assist every 90 minutes. That form also earned him a call-up to the US U-23 national team.

Toye has not quite hit those same heights in 315 regular-season minutes this year, and Loons head coach Adrian Heath offered a hint as to why, while also expressing hope that the goal could help turn things around.

“Hopefully, it will help his confidence. I think he’s overthinking things a little bit at times. But, obviously, for front men, goals mean an awful lot,” Heath said after Minnesota's win. “So, he’s got a good opportunity, because, you know, Luis has had his injection and we still think he’s going to be two or three weeks. And, Schoenfeld is showing a lot more signs of being fit, but we still think he’s maybe a week, two weeks away. So, Mason has got an opportunity to show everybody what he can do. I’m sure that scoring a goal this evening will do his confidence no harm.”

Toye's job, as well as that of anyone who steps into the No. 9 role for Minnesota, may also become a little easier thanks to Minnesota's new big-name arrival, Argentine playmaker Emanuel 'Bebelo' Reynoso. The new signing from Boca Juniors already has an assist in each of his first two starts, and looks to have added a missing element to Minnesota's attack with his vision and passing ability.

“We haven’t been able to train that much together because of how quick and fast the games have been coming,” Toye said of Reynoso. “But in the games you can just tell, his weight of his passes, the disguises on his passes and his creativity and his soccer brain is really good. I’m excited to continue to play with him and hopefully I can help him with some assists.”

The games figure to come thick and fast now for Toye and Minnesota, who will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to Sporting Kansas City (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada). With the team's two other striking options still working their way back, it is almost certain Toye will get the starting nod once again, something he feels could be beneficial as he looks to show Heath he can hold on to that spot.

“I’m still trying to figure a couple things out and get my feet under me and starting games consistently,” Toye said in reference to Heath's “overthinking” assessment. “I’ve been coming off the bench so much [lately] and that’s really what it is, I’m trying to figure stuff out. This goal has done me a lot of good, and I’m going to continue to try and play simple and let the game come to me.”