Ayo Akinola put in a strong outing for Toronto FC on Matchday 1 of the MLS is Back Tournament, but made sure to follow that up with a career performance against the club’s biggest rivals.
Akinola’s first career MLS hat-trick propelled Greg Vanney’s side to a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Impact on Thursday night. It was TFC’s first win of the tournament and a massive one for the Eastern Conference side.
A five-goal first half saw Toronto FC head into the break with a 3-2 advantage despite being pegged back twice.
Richie Laryea’s eighth minute finish kicked off the action with Alejandro Pozuelo setting up the left back. After getting the best of Shamit Shome, Laryea cut back inside the left side of the box before rifling a low shot into the bottom-right corner.
The Impact didn’t hang their heads though, hitting back in the 15th minute thanks to Romell Quioto. Emanuel Maciel’s long pass over the top of the TFC backline allowed the Honduran to race onto it before slotting home past Quentin Westberg.
Akinola continued his strong tournament, scoring a brace in a 12-minute span later in the half. After a 1-2 between Pablo Piatti and Pozuelo, the Spaniard sent a low cross across the box allowing Akinola to tap home for a 2-1 TFC lead.
Chris Mavinga conceded a penalty kick for taking out Quioto in the box, giving Saphir Taider the opportunity to make it 2-2, but TFC snatched the lead back on the ensuing kickoff. After breaking upfield, Pozuelo played a through ball into the box which Akinola struck past Clement Diop for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Impact defender Luis Binks came close to making it a six-goal opening half before stoppage time, but his header off a corner kick bounced off the right post before being cleared.
The Impact tried to level the match after halftime, keeping Westberg busy in his goal. However, the veteran goalkeeper would send Akinola on his way to the final nail in the coffin with less than 10 minutes to play.
A quick restart caught the Impact off guard with Westberg’s goal kick headed forward by Nick DeLeon. Akinola bullied Impact defender Jukka Raitala off the ball before chipping a shot past Diop for his third goal of the match.
Laurent Ciman conceded a stoppage time penalty kick after blocking a cross with his arm, allowing Taider to score his second of the match. However, it wouldn’t be enough for the Impact who finished second best on the night.
Toronto FC now sits top of Group C and will conclude group stage play on July 21st against the New England Revolution. Winless Montreal faces D.C. United later that same evening.
Man of the Match
Ayo Akinola: While Alejandro Pozuelo registered three first-half assists, Akinola was the star of the show. Akinola showed a good mixture of speed and physicality, bossing the Impact backline on three separate occasions.
Moment of the Match
Akinola’s third goal: Not long after the hydration break in the second-half, Akinola stamped the win for TFC. His physicality against Raitala was impressive before showing the composure to slot in his hat trick goal.
Match to Forget
Jukka Raitala: Normally a good option down the right wing, Raitala was ineffective and overall didn’t have a good match defensively. His lack of strength on Akinola’s third goal was surprising and ultimately iced the result for TFC.