MLS

Ayo Akinola - North America's next potential superstar

The 20-year-old has been the breakout performer so far in the MLS is Back Tournament, scoring a goal every 35 minutes

 
1:00pm on Saturday 18th July 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

On Thursday, a goalscoring record was broken as Toronto FC defeated Montreal Impact 4-3 in the Canadian Classic.

Ayo Akinola is the name is on everyone’s lips in the United States and Canada at the moment.

In the MLS is Back Tournament, he became the first player ever to score a hat-trick in the Canadian Classic, as well as the second player ever to score two or more goals in successive matches for Toronto FC in the MLS.

Each goal displayed a different aspect of his game. For his first, he reads the game superbly well to keep himself onside and drift in behind his marker to convert an Alejandro Pozuelo cross at the back post.

Then, 37 minutes in, he latches on to a through pass, again from Pozuelo, and shows impressive strength and speed to hold off the attention of the defender before sending a cool finish across goal into the bottom corner.

Akinola’s record-breaking hat-trick goal came seven minutes from time, as he found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper before flicking a delicate chip into the bottom corner.

For his performance in the match, he earned a 9.6 FC Rating.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Akinola moved to Brampton, Ontario when he was young, making him eligible to play international football for the United States, Canada, or indeed Nigeria due to his parentage.

The most likely scenario for his international future will be remaining with the USA as he has represented them at U15, U17, and U20 levels.

But, in 2018 he told the Toronto Star about his international plans: “No time to rush. But at some point, I’m going to have to make a decision which one is the best fit for me.”

Over a handful of appearances in the MLS and the Canadian Championship over the past few years, Akinola has scored just two senior goals, but has already more than doubled that tally in his first appearances in the 2019/20 season.

On the subject of his heroes, he told MLSSoccer.com: “My favorite player is Ronaldinho.

“He always had a smile on his face on the field. If you're not having fun, why play? You've got to be loose. He was relaxed, enjoyed the game, loved what he was doing.”

Currently, key forward Jozy Altidore remains sidelined for Toronto as he battles to get back to full fitness after quarantined training by himself, but the way Akinola is currently playing the former Sunderland man is by no means guaranteed his place in the starting XI on his return.

After their opening two matches of the MLS is Back Tournament, Toronto FC currently lead Group C with four points accumulated so far, with Akinola scoring five across the two games.

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