As the calendar switches to October, many familiar faces in MLS are starting to click at the right time and Toronto FC is one of them in the Eastern Conference.
After a poor start to the month of September, TFC has rolled off a five-match unbeaten run which continued after a 2-1 home win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night. Ayo Akinola broke onto the scene at the MLS is Back Tournament earlier this summer and has since recovered nicely from his own injury layoff in August.
Akinola scored the equalizing goal at Rentschler Field on Saturday, heading past Andre Blake in the 58th minute. TFC would score a winner though Alejandro Pozuelo, but it was Akinola who impressed in his latest appearance for the club.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) October 4, 2020
“He continues to grow, you know?” TFC head coach Greg Vanney said postmatch. “He continues to grow. He’s learning every day. He’s got a desire to score goals. On this team, if you have a desire to score goals and work hard in front of the goal, and commit yourself and get your timing right, with the quality of service and the passers we have on our team, you’re going to get chances.”
After only one goal in eight appearances last season, the U.S. Men’s National Team prospect exploded for five in three appearances in Orlando this summer. Akinola scored in a 2-2 draw at D.C. United in mid-September and has also started the last two matches, victories over both NYCFC and the Columbus Crew.
The 20-year-old forward isn’t known for his ability in the air, but made the most of his only shot on goal Saturday. He got enough power on his effort to beat Blake and eventually kickstart TFC’s offense for its push for a winning goal.
Fellow forward Jozy Altidore left the match with an apparent hamstring injury in the second half, which could now give Akinola an increased role in the top of TFC’s attack. With eight matches remaining and TFC tied with the first-place Crew on 31 points, Vanney is excited to see how Akinola can deliver down the stretch.
“I love to see that he scored a goal with his head in the past couple games,” Vanney said. “So it’s continuing to just find different ways to put the ball in the back of the net, get his timing right on his runs so that our guys like [Pozuelo, Jonathan Osorio], those guys can pick out his runs. And he’s going to keep getting chances.
“I think he has a super high potential. He’s still going to keep learning and keep working. But he’s got high potential.”
TFC next travels to the New England Revolution on Oct. 7th before visiting FC Cincinnati on Oct. 11th. Both matches will see TFC as favorites to win before some tougher opponents come on the schedule in late October.