Ayo Akinola - Toronto FC - July 17, 2020
Matthew Stith and Jared Martinez

Charlies Davies: Why the US men's national team should call up Ayo Akinola now

The emergence of Toronto FC's Ayo Akinola has some in US men’s national team circles clamoring for his senior-team debut, and you can count Charlie Davies among them.

The former USMNT striker pushed for Akinola’s inclusion on the latest Extratime episode, just as the 20-year-old forward scores in back-to-back games for Supporters’ Shield leaders.

“He offers something different than any other striker in the pool, and so therefore you want Ayo Akinola to start getting reps for the US men’s national team,” Davies said. “I’m excited when I watch him play. He’s short to the ground, good speed – not world-class speed, but good speed – good acceleration, strength and the intelligent runs, the timing of the runs. 

“When you’re playing with [an Alejandro] Pozuelo, that’s only going to make you that much better, to always be ready for those types of passes. So I’m very high on strikers that have something different, and he’s one of them.”

Charlie Davies: Ayo Akinola has earned a USMNT call up

Speculation surrounds Akinola’s international future, however, as he’s also eligible to represent Canada and Nigeria. That stance only accelerated in late-September when OneSoccer's Gareth Wheeler reported that Canada head coach John Herdman told him Akinola is leaning towards donning a Les Rouges jersey.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhlater addressed those talks on a previous Extratime episode, affirming that he’s remained in contact with Akinola. There’s competition in the player pool, though a young prospect like Akinola could provide a boost.

"I've spoken to Ayo a number of times and, again, for us it's about creating an environment that players want to be in," Berhalter said. "Hopefully we show them that, hopefully we get the opportunity to show them that. 

“He's been in our youth programs – he was a big part of the Under-20 program and the Under-17s – so he's a guy that we consider part of our program. If he were to change it would be a disappointment because he has been such a large part of our youth programs. But we want the opportunity to prove that we have a great environment for him to continue to develop, and hopefully we’ll get that."

Akinola has eight goals in 11 games this season, which places him tied for fourth place in the Golden Boot race. A Homegrown Player, he figures to get more opportunities since Jozy Altidore is out “4-5 weeks,” according to TFC head coach Greg Vanney, after suffering a hamstring injury.

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