LOS ANGELES – Right before the half-hour mark on Sunday night at Banc of California Stadium, Minnesota United forward Mason Toye collected the ball about 25 yards out from goal, with star forward Darwin Quintero blazing into space beside him.
It’s not hard to imagine the 20-year-old forward laying off the ball to the streaking Colombian and entrusting him with the task of doubling the Loons’ 1-0 lead.
Instead he let fly and managed to beat Black & Gold keeper Pablo Sisniega near-post.
“I have to say, I didn’t expect the two goals, certainly the second one anyway,” said Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath afterward, adding that opposing defenses underestimate the speed of his young attacker. “I thought the first one was a magnificent finish but I think the second one took everybody by surprise, even the ‘keeper.”
The goal was the second on a night where Toye’s name was the only one on the scoresheet against a team who had been unbeaten in the league at home until the Loons’ visit.
Unlike his coach, Toye insisted he wasn’t surprised by the chances he put away Sunday night, despite celebrating the second goal by tossing his arms to the side in disbelief.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” the youngster told reporters after his side’s massive 2-0 victory. “I work really hard in training and I’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been here so I think I’ve been putting in the work and it’s showing the fruits of my labor here to be scoring these goals the way I’ve been doing them.”
On the hard-working point, Minnesota United’s manager agreed with his goalscorer.
“I’m a big believer that you get out of life what you put in it. This is a kid who continually wants to work hard at his game, working hard at his craft,” the coach said. “We have to bring him off the training ground, literally we have to bring him in and tell him to save his energy and save his legs because he just wants to keep working away and trying to get better.”
Toye’s meteoric rise — from MLS SuperDraft, to USL loan player, and finally to leading the line in MLS and scoring 6 league goals for the Loons — has not gone unnoticed.
Along with teammate Hassani Dotson — who also was among the starting XI for MNUFC’s victory over LAFC — Toye was called into the US Under-23 national team by Jason Kreis for a Sept. 9 friendly against Japan, a tune-up before the 2020 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship for a spot at the Olympics in Tokyo.
The selection is a recognition that Loons captain Ike Opara believes is well deserved.
“That was a man’s performance, I won’t call him a kid right now,” the Loons captain said of Toye’s performance after the match. “He was big for us. In isolation, to have the confidence he had to hit those strikes the way he did, really helped us and even the little things like holding up the ball and putting more pressure on when he could, were big for us tonight. Seeing him and the work that he puts in day in and day out on the field and in training, it’s unbelievable and impressive for a guy his age to have the hunger to get better.”
Heath believes the U-23 call-up might just be the first in a bright future for Minnesota’s number 23.
“Nobody wants to be a star more than Mason Toye, trust me,” said the Loons boss, “and he’s going to put all the hours in it takes to get himself there.”