Mason Toye relishes rookie season in Major League Soccer

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Mason Toye is living his dream of playing professional soccer.

Just 14 months after graduating high school, the 19-year-old South Orange native is enjoying his rookie season playing for Minnesota United in Major League Soccer. Toye is the youngest member on the 32-man team.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound forward, who wears No. 23, has played in 14 games with one start. He hasn’t scored a goal yet, but he did post an assist in his very first game, helping Minnesota to a win at Orlando on March 10.

Toye was one of the top players in the country while playing for Seton Hall Prep. In his senior season in 2016, he was named the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and was selected First Team All-America by USA Today while leading the West Orange parochial school to its first North Jersey Non-Public “A” state championship since 2009.

Toye continued his career at Indiana University where he helped the Hoosiers to the NCAA Division I national championship game against Stanford in his freshman year last fall. Stanford won, 1-0, in double overtime. Toye led the Big Ten Conference with 10 goals. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, First Team All-Big Ten and First Team United Soccer Coaches All-Midwest Region.

Toye, who turns 20 on October 16, was selected seventh overall by Minnesota in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.

Minnesota United had a recent 9-13-1 record through August 4 and was in ninth place in the Western Conference. The top six teams in the conference qualify for the playoffs.

The following is a Q&A with Toye, conducted by The News-Record via a telephone interview on Monday, July 30:

Q: What has it been like to play for Minnesota and in MLS?

A: “It’s been really, really great. It’s a blessing to be able to do what I love. It’s been really cool. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment for me, coming from high school and I was in high school last year, so it’s a big jump. It’s been really, really great so far.”

Q: Who are your role models and influences?

A: “Definitely my dad (Vince), just in terms of his hard work and dedication in everything he does. There’s a player named Thierry Henry, who played for the Red Bulls at the end of his career. He is a big role model for me. I really like the way he plays. Those are probably my two biggest role models, I would say.”

Q: What are your individual goals and team goals?

A: “My goals for myself are to continue to improve and try to continue to learn and get better every day. For the team, just trying to make push for the playoffs in this last part of the season, and again trying to continue to get better every day.”

Q: What are some of your highlights of your MLS career so far?

A: “Definitely my debut in Orlando. We were able to get a win and I was able to contribute to a goal. That was probably my biggest highlight. Our first home game (on March 17,  2-1 win over Chicago Fire) when I got on and we were able to get that win in front of the fans. And definitely coming home and playing the Red Bulls (on March 24, 3-0 loss). We didn’t end up getting the result, but it was really nice to have 45 (family and friends) in the crowd. It was pretty cool to play in front of them.”

Q: When did you first started playing soccer?

A: “It was probably when I was 2. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time. My brother (Chester) and I were playing and he kind of introduced me to the game. I played for Cougar Soccer Club in New Jersey and then I played for Montclair United. And then I moved to New York Red Bulls (Academy) for a little bit and then PDA (Player Development Academy).”

Q: If you were to give any advice to young, aspiring soccer players, what would it be?

A: “I’d say try to do more than all the other people that you are playing around. Put in the extra work after practice, or put in work in your basement or in your backyard, things of that nature. Just continue to get better every day and work as hard as you can in every practice and every game.”