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Maracas, medal hunting and Monopoly money: 10 things about Mason Toye

BLAINE, Minn. — After a quiet rookie year, Mason Toye’s second season with Minnesota United is quickly heating up.

Since returning from a loan spell with the Loons’ USL League One affiliate, the 20-year-old striker has found his form, scoring six goals and setting up three others — despite starting only four of his 11 matches.

MLSsoccer.com caught up with Toye at United’s training complex to learn 10 things about the Loons’ new scoring sensation:

Work Hard, Score Goals

Toye’s goalscoring spree may be a surprise to some, but he sees it as a reward that’s been a long time coming.

“I’ve been working really hard lately and it’s pretty awesome to be scoring goals,” he said. “I’m really happy and I hope it continues.”

Said Toye’s manager, Adrian Heath: “Mason is starting to do the things that we know he's capable of. He's getting the rewards for 18 months of every afternoon wanting to work, wanting to get better, watching video, moving home so he'd be closer to the training ground. All these little things, they add up.”

Maraca Time

After every goal he scores, Toye runs to the corner, stops, and shakes invisible maracas.

The goal celebration is unique, a product of Toye and rookie fullback Chase Gasper’s combined creativity

“[We] came up with it in Houston before a game and it’s just caught on,” Toye explained. “It’s original, so I want to keep it going.”

Toye doesn’t think his celebration can compare with the varied dance moves that teammate Darwin Quintero has at the ready after each goal, though. “I don’t think I can compete with him. His son tells him what to do,” Toye said with a grin.

Very, Thierry Motivated

Watching soccer as a kid, Toye found himself inspired by former New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry. Now, as a professional player at the same position, he tries to emulate the Frenchman’s play.

“Thierry Henry is somebody who I’ve always looked up to. I have a similar stature to him, similar playing style, so I’ve always looked up to him,” Toye said. “I grew up in New Jersey so I got to see him play quite a bit at the end of his career. It’s pretty cool.”

Multi-Baller

Toye almost ended up a basketball player in high school.

“It was the beginning of sophomore year of high school that I decided to go back to soccer,” he explained. “I had quit soccer at a point to play basketball and just focus on that for a little bit. Eventually, I realized I loved soccer more than I did basketball.”

Toye was able to apply a few lessons from the hardwood to the pitch.

“I think movement off the ball is probably the biggest thing. Cutting in, that type of stuff, cutting to the basket … running in transition, running off of guys’ back shoulders,” he said. “I think there’s more carryover from soccer to basketball.”

Could he still compete in basketball? “I shoot around every once and a while, just for fun, but nothing competitive,” he said.

No. 23

Mason Toye, left, fighting for the ball against Kellyn Acosta, then of FC Dallas, during a game in 2018 | USA Today Sports Images

Toye dons the number 23 jersey for the Loons, but that choice of number has nothing to do with basketball great Michael Jordan.

“I moved back to my old club and the best available number was 23, so I took it and I had a really good year," he said. "Indiana ended up offering it to me, so it’s a special number for me.".

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?

Toye is also a fan of more than just soccer.

“I’m a [Dallas] Cowboys fan, because of my dad. It’s a little weird because I’m from New Jersey,” Toye explained. “I’m a LeBron James fan, so wherever he goes, I like the team he’s playing on … I lived in Pennsylvania for a while when Allen Iverson was playing [for the Philadelphia 76ers], so that was my original team.”

Right Foot Forward

He doesn’t consider himself to be a superstitious athlete, but Toye does have a pregame routine.

“I usually just put on my right sock before my left, my right shinguard on before my left one,” he said. “Then I just try to listen to some music, get myself prepared for the game … I take my headphones off the last two minutes before the game and I just relax.”

One and Done

Before Minnesota United selected Toye with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 SuperDraft, the striker enjoyed a successful season with Indiana University.

As a freshman, Toye tied for the Big Ten Conference lead with 10 goals. He was also named the Conference’s Freshman of the Year as the Hoosiers advanced to the national championship game.

At the end of the season, Toye made the decision to forgo his remaining collegiate eligibility and turn professional.

“It was a really good opportunity for me. I felt like it was the right time to do it,” he said. “My coaching staff was very adamant on telling me that they wanted me to go. They thought it was the right time for me as well. It was just timing, and obviously I wanted to go pro.”

Future Olympian?

In 2017, Toye was called up to the US U-19 national team. He was a part of two matches at that level and trained with the U-20 side, but hasn’t gotten any calls since.

With Olympic qualifying for the U-23 team on the horizon, Toye hopes his play will be enough to earn a place in the squad.

“Hopefully if I can continue to do well I can maybe get some chances with the Under-23’s,” he said. “I’m just trying to continue to play well and hopefully I can get the call from the national team.”

Master of Monopoly

Toye may be a multi-sport athlete, but his talents extend off the field too. Asked what his biggest non-athletic talent is, Toye paused.

“I’m okay at Monopoly,” he said, laughing.

Does that foreshadow a future real estate empire? “Maybe.”

In the meantime, fans around the league will be happy to watch Toye continue to score important goals — and shake a few maracas along the way.

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