Toronto FC Group C Review: Ayo Akinola Steps Up

Ayo Akinola Toronto FC MLS is Back

EDITORIAL – It was not easy, but Toronto FC and Ayo Akinola got the job done. They finished with a record of one win and two ties. There are many things that Toronto FC did well, but also some things they did not do well. This article will look at the strengths of Toronto FC as well as things to improve on in the knockout stage.

MLS is Back Tournament: Toronto FC Group C Review

Toronto FC: What Worked?

Ayo Akinola-Alejandro Pozuelo Combo

The story of the tournament has been Ayo Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo. Akinola, who is tied for first for the MiB Golden Boot race, has scored five of TFC’s six goals in the MLS is Back Tournament. Furthermore, Alejandro Pozuelo has played extremely well assisting in five of Toronto FC’s six goals.

According to Michael Tierney of Waking the Red, Pozuelo is relishing the opportunity of passing to Ayo Akinola. This is because of Akinola’s commitment to running and getting behind the opposing team’s backline. As a result, according to, Akinola had 13 shots, with 10 of them on target. This is by far the biggest factor why Toronto FC is going to the knockout stage.

Possession of the Ball

Toronto FC also showed their ability to possess the ball against D.C. United and the New England Revolution. The credit should be given to Toronto FC’s midfielders like Marky Delgado and Michael Bradley. This resulted in Toronto FC having more shots versus their opponents in all three games and having more shots on goal in two of those games.

The other one was a tie with the Impact with six shots on goal. This also proved that the formation they used in these three games is working. Furthermore, the dangerous passes Pablo Piatti and Pozuelo have made makes TFC a dangerous team to face against.

The Chemistry Between Toronto FC’s Starting Centre-Backs

Major props should also be given to Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga. Yes, Mavinga gave up a penalty late against the Montreal Impact. However, overall, both players played key roles and made vital tackles and plays in both D.C. United and the New England Revolution.

This also played a major role for TFC to advance to the knockout stage. In fact, against D.C. United, when they were subbed out of the game when TFC was beating D.C. United 2-0. They did not allow any goals in those two games alone.

Last year, Mavinga talked about Gonzalez and why he appreciates him as a teammate according to Gianluca Lia of Waking the Red:

“[Omar Gonzalez] is easy to play with because he’s a good player with good experience,” said Mavinga after the team’s recent clean-sheet win over the Columbus Crew on Decision Day. “It’s always easy to play with Omar [Gonzalez] because he’s a good guy […] and for me, it’s easy to be comfortable.”

There is a chemistry between the two players, which is really important as centre-backs and for Toronto FC as a team.

Other Factors

Richie Laryea played really well against the Montreal Impact and also against D.C. United. He contributed with a goal for Toronto FC to give them an early 1-0 lead over the Montreal Impact. He, Pozuelo, and Akinola made the MLS Team of the Week last week.

Other players include Pablo Piatti, whose passes have looked dangerous. His tremendous pass to Pozuelo resulted in a goal for Akinola against the Impact.

Lastly, the experience factor played a big role. Toronto FC has been to three MLS Cup Finals and one Concacaf Champions League Final in the last four years. This experience has toughened the players as they got past tough stretches of a game. This includes the Revolution who came blazing at the start of the second half.

Also, big congrats to Alex Bono, who got his first clean sheet since late March of 2019 against the Revolution. He was spectacular in that game and was a big reason why TFC came out with a point against the Revolution.

Overview of Toronto FC and Their Game on July 26

Toronto FC will be in the MiB knockout stage as the winner of Group C. It is unknown who they will face. Their knockout game will take place on July 26. They will face New York City FC.

Looking back at the Toronto FC Group C Preview Piatti was highlighted as a player to watch. Yes, Piatti has played well for TFC. However, his performance in the tournament has been overshadowed by Akinola and Pozuelo. No one expected Akinola to be such a factor on the offensive end. He and Pozuelo are probably the best players from Group C for Toronto FC.

Looking back at the odds to win the group by oddschecker in the MLS is Back: Group C Preview, one could say Toronto FC underperformed even though they won the group. However, there are a few factors to consider. One is that Jonathan Osorio did not play a single game and Jozy Altidore only played a few minutes against the New England Revolution. The absence of at least Altidore was covered by Akinola.

Lastly, there are always going to be teams under and over-achieving. There are only three games in each group. Upsets are going to happen. While it did not happen in Group C it can be seen with other groups in MLS. Atlanta United FC finished last without a single goal in Group E while New York City FC finished third in Group A.