MiB Round of 16 X-Factor: Ayo Akinola and Jozy Altidore

Ayo Akinola Toronto FC MLS is Back

PREVIEW – They may have only played a few minutes together this year, but Ayo Akinola looks up to Jozy Altidore as a mentor. Altidore has been with the team since 2015. He is now one of the most well-known players for Toronto FC. This includes scoring the goal that won Toronto FC their only MLS Cup in 2017 against the Seattle Sounders FC.

Ayo Akinola and Jozy Altidore Partnership

The Rise of Ayo Akinola

Akinola has probably been the surprise of the MLS is Back Tournament. He has scored five goals, including a hat-trick against the Montreal Impact. This is what he said according to James Grossi of torontofc.ca when he scored two goals against D.C. United.

“I always want the ball, turn and dribble, but one thing they taught me well was patience,” Akinola continued. “Be patient, stay between the centre-backs and eventually the ball will come to you. That I needed to improve on; they were a huge guidance, especially Jozy.”

Altidore has been a supportive mentor for Akinola. He was one of the first people on social media to praise Akinola on his hat-trick.

Akinola for his hat-trick goal used his strength to dribble past an Impact player. This type of physicality has also been shown by Altidore. This shows the influence Altidore has had on Akinola’s game. Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley talks about Akinola after D.C. United game according to James Grossi of toronotofc.ca.

“Ayo has had a really, really good stretch,” observed Michael Bradley. “He’s fit, he’s sharp. He has such a unique package, in terms of being strong, fast, he has good feet, he’s smart in how he can move off of the centre-backs.”

The Veteran Experience of Jozy Altidore

Altidore is second all-time in scoring with 72 goals. The only one with more goals in a TFC shirt, Sebastian Giovinco said this about Altidore according to Jonathan Sigel of mlssoccer.com.

“It was very, very fun,” Giovinco said of playing with Altidore. “We compliment each other. I have great memories of Jozy. He was a very good teammate, very good person. He means so much.”

Altidore is a physical player that is fast for his size. He is also willing to go behind the backline and score for his team. This was shown in his famous goal that won TFC the MLS Cup in 2017. Yes, Victor Vazquez also scored but that came in the last moments of the game. It was Altidore’s goal that gave Toronto FC the MLS Cup win.

This is Altidore’s sixth season with Toronto FC. During that time, he has gone to three MLS Cup Finals and one Concacaf Champions League Final. He has also been in four Canadian Championship Finals winning in three of those finals. He also won the MLS Cup MVP Award in 2017 and made the MLS All-Star Game twice in 2015 and 2017. Lastly, he was a runner-up in the Campeones Cup in 2018 and won the Supporters’ Shield in 2017.

Altidore’s most admirable quality is probably his humility. According to the Canadian Press of midlandtoday.ca, Altidore is reluctant to talk about himself. However, he is more than willing to praise his other teammates.

“He’s got a really good way with people,” said Vanney. “When he’s on your side and giving you compliments like (to Nigerian rookie Ifunanyachi) Achara, like (17-year-old) Jayden Nelson and these guys, then I know it makes them feel bigger than maybe they are in the moment. And that’s good for our team and those guys are confident and feel good.”

Ayo Akinola and Jozy Altidore Partnership

Akinola and Altidore only played a few minutes together in Toronto FC’s last group stage game against the New England Revolution. However, the linkage between Altidore and Akinola almost led to a penalty shot. This will show their next opponent New York City FC, the potential dangers of the Akinola-Altidore partnership.

This is what Omar Gonzalez of TFC said about Altidore and Akinola according to Tom Bogert of mlssoccer.com.

“It’s going to be great having him and Jozy available,” defender Omar Gonzalez told reporters on a video conference call Friday. “I think there are going to be some pretty scared backlines.”

Altidore and Akinola are both similar players that are willing to run behind the team’s backline. Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney talks about this in more detail:

“Ayo and Jozy on the field together was nice,” Vanney said after the match. “It’s a handful for defenders. … I’m pleased.  They are two strong guys who are going to be a handful for defenders to deal with in the moments we decide to use them together. We’ll see how we play it out as we move through the tournament and into the rest of the year.”

Overview of Both Toronto FC Strikers

It will be interesting how Toronto FC will use Altidore. They could have either Akinola or Altidore start as the lone striker, with the other one coming as a substitute. However, what seems to be best is both Altidore and Akinola start together in a 4-4-2 formation. That way Altidore and Akinola will work together as strikers to score goals for Toronto FC.

In Grossi’s article, Vanney talks about both Altidore and Akinola and what they both bring to Toronto FC.

“He’s got a nice mentor on the field in Jozy who knows how to score goals,” Vanney said. “He’s a smart player who can help give him some information along the way.”

Vanney will be spoiled for choice come Sunday when they face New York City FC. It will be a tough game as New York City FC will look to avenge the 2019 MLS Cup Playoff loss to Toronto FC. However, with Akinola and Altidore, the duo might be too much for New York City FC to handle. The game against New York City FC will take place on Sunday, July. 26th at 8:30 PM eastern time.

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