Mason Toye is a motivated, confident and highly competitive individual. That's why it's odd to hear him be content when saying "our starting No. 9" without talking about himself in the third person.
Toye's ascent from little-known second-year forward to US national team-level prospect happened rapidly in 2019 and hopes were high heading into 2020. After Minnesota United's first two matches, though, Toye has yet to play a minute. Even after the club moved on from two Designated Player forwards this offseason.
In their attacking rebuild, the Loons added Paraguayan international Luis Amarilla, who himself was not lacking in confidence when he predicted he'd score 25 goals this season. The more experienced goalscorer got the club's first two starts atop Adrian Heath's preferred 4-2-3-1, leaving Toye out. But he knows getting mad about it isn't productive.
“It’s not frustrating, it’s more motivation to prove myself," Toye told MLSsoccer.com last week. "I know with time, it’ll come. I’m only 21. It’s not crazy to be coming off the bench. With how long the season is, you’re always going to get your chance.”
Amarilla scored in both starts as Minnesota exploded for an MLS-best eight goals over those matches before play was suspended two and a half months ago. When Heath did insert another forward, it was Aaron Schoenefeld, not Toye.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I wasn’t frustrated not to play, but you gotta be realistic," Toye said. "My strengths and talents, holding the ball up and closing the game isn’t my strong suit. I come in to try and win games.”
Toye added how effective and experienced Schoenefeld is, as well as speaking highly of his friendly competition with Amarilla.
“The competition is great, (Amarilla is) a really good guy," Toye said. "He’s got decent banter even though his English isn’t great, there are a lot of curse words. But he works his socks off every day. It’s motivational for me, seeing a guy with a big price tag working so hard still. If you had a guy in front of you not working hard, it’d get annoying. But this pushes me to keep myself in check.”
Toye burst onto the scene in 2019 by jumpstarting a stalling Minnesota attack by scoring four of his six league goals in a four-game stretch and climbing above Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez for a time. His best individual outing came a couple months later with a sensational brace in a 2-0 win away to LAFC.
But Toye didn't score again in his next five starts, and had dropped back to the bench by the time saw him drop to the bench for the club's final regular season game and first-ever playoff fixture, a home loss to the LA Galaxy.
“The problem last year is I took the starting spot, ran with it but by the end of the season I dropped the ball," Toye said. "That’s a big thing this year, making sure I stay consistent.”
Making a name for himself was his goal in his sophomore 2019 season after a rookie campaign in which he played but 340 league minutes. Now, showing consistency is on his mind.
"In this league, it’s going to be tough to be the starting No. 9," Toye said. "I have to prove to Adrian that I can carry that burden."