DELTONA, FLA. – With Minnesota United entering a third MLS season that should make coach Adrian Heath’s life easier, second-year striker Mason Toye aims to make it more difficult.
Toye, the seventh overall pick in the 2018 SuperDraft, has all the ability and drive to succeed, in Heath’s estimation, but at age 20 is lacking the knowledge that might make it impossible for Heath to keep him off the field.
That’s why Toye hit both the weight and film rooms all winter, intent on returning for this second season stronger and smarter.
In one season at Indiana University, the New Jersey native was both Big Ten Freshman of the Year and all-conference. He also helped lead the Hoosiers to the NCAA title game, a double-overtime loss to Stanford.
After one pro season in which the Generation Adidas prospect appeared in 17 of 34 games, he isn’t quite sure what expectations to have for Season 2, other than one thing.
“I’m just going to try to make Adrian’s job as difficult as possible and try to push the guys ahead of me,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get some opportunities and score goals. I want to help any way I can. Hopefully, that’s scoring goals and helping to create goals and hopefully win some games.”
He scored the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 scrimmage victory by United’s reserves over Florida International University, using his speed and skill to convert Eric Miller’s pass as Toye slipped through the opposing defense. He evaded the goalkeeper one-on-one and chipped the ball over a defender into an open goal.
“That’s a striker’s job,” said Toye, whose team plays its second Orlando City Invitational tournament game Wednesday against New York City FC. “That’s what you get paid to do. I didn’t do a good job of that last year. That’s something I can do a lot better this year.”
Those teammates ahead of him up front include Angelo Rodriguez, Romario Ibarra and possibly Abu Danladi if he can stay healthy.
“Mason, he has a lot of physical and athletic tools,” Heath said. “We have to keep working with his positioning on the field and his timing when and where to go. If that drops, he has a great opportunity. At the minute, that’s still a work in progress.
“He has so many great role models to look at, and he’s got more athleticism than they do. At this moment in time, they’re just smarter than him. We have to get those smarts into him. If he does, he has all the tools to be very successful.”
That’s why Toye remained in Minnesota much of the offseason, working on his body and analyzing video with assistant coach Ian Fuller and sometimes Heath, too. Toye says he learns better visually.
“The one thing about the kid, he wants it desperately,” Heath said. “I’ve had certain kids throughout my career who had all the ability, but this kid wants it. Now he has to add little bits to his game.”
Heath deems Toye “bigger and stronger” this season.
“Obviously, I’m playing against grown men and last year I wasn’t physically up to it and it showed massively,” Toye said. “So I knew if I wanted to get any chance of trying to break into the first team, I knew I needed to get stronger.”
He also went to the movies with Fuller and video staff so his mind might sooner than later match his physical gifts.
“I’m a young guy and that’s the frustrating thing,” Toye said. “I try to compete with these guys, but Angelo he’s 29 going on 30. He has been a pro for 10-plus years. Romario has played on his [Ecuador] senior national team and scored goals there. It’s going to be difficult to compete with those guys, but that’s what you want. It’ll only get me better and I’ll only get better by pushing myself.”