Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola up for MLS tournament award

Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola, front, scores his second goal of the game during the first half of an MLS match against the Montreal Impact. (John Raoux/AP)

Toronto FC striker Ayo Akinola and Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal are up for individual awards for their play at the MLS is Back Tournament.

Akinola is one of four finalists for the Young Player Award. The 20-year-old U.S. youth international, filling in for Jozy Altidore, turned heads by scoring five goals in his first two games at the Florida tournament.

Akinola is up against Philadelphia midfielder Brenden Aaronson, Orlando fullback Joao Moutinho and Los Angeles FC striker Diego Rossi (LAFC).

Hasal, the Whitecaps’ third-string ‘keeper, is up for the Golden Glove award along with Philadelphia’s Andre Blake, Orlando’s Pedro Gallese and New England’s Matt Turner.

The 21-year-old Hasal was pressed into action when Vancouver starter Maxime Crepeau broke his thumb in a goalmouth collision playing the Seattle Sounders and backup Bryan Meredith left the team in the wake of his mother’s death.

Hasal did not give up a goal in regulation time, with the Whitecaps exiting in a round-of-16 penalty shootout against Sporting Kansas City.

Both winners will be announced Wednesday after balloting by media (75 per cent) and fans (25 per cent).

Rossi and Blake are also nominated for Player of the Tournament, along with Portland playmaker Sebastian Blanco and Orlando forward Nani.

That winner will be announced Thursday.

Akinola and Hasal are also up for the tournament’s Best 11, along with midfielders Alejandro Pozuelo of Toronto and Victor Wanyama of Montreal. Media will decide the all-star squad, to be announced Thursday.

Fans can cast their vote via the MLS social media.

The World Cup-style tournament concludes Tuesday evening when the Portland Timbers and Orlando City SC face off for the US$300,000 first prize and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in the Orlando area.

MLS, meanwhile, announced Monday that the tournament has been recognized by Guinness World Records for the largest single-location pro soccer tournament.

“During a uniquely challenging time, MLS was able to bring soccer back safely,” Mark Abbott, MLS president and deputy commissioner, said in a statement. “We are one game away from concluding this historic competition, yet we have already made history in many ways.”

The tournament, which marked the league’s return to play following a pandemic-prompted hiatus, spanned 51 matches in 35 days.

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