Akinola hat-trick lifts Toronto over Montreal in MLS tourney

Miami (AFP) – Ayo Akinola’s hat-trick carried Toronto to a 4-3 victory over Montreal on Thursday that pushed Thierry Henry’s Impact to the brink of elimination in the MLS is Back tournament.

The Impact are last in Group C having lost their first two matches in Major League Soccer’s World Cup-style tournament in Orlando, Florida, which marks the return of top flight football in the United States after the league’s coronavirus shutdown.

Toronto lead the group with four points, followed by the New England Revolution with three and DC United with one.

Toronto have been without Jozy Altidore in both of their matches so far, but Akinola ably picked up the slack on Thursday.

The teams combined for five goals in the first 37 minutes, Montreal equalizing twice before Akinola notched his second and third goals.

Richie Laryea put Toronto ahead in the eighth minute, collecting a through ball from Alejandro Pozuelo and racing into the penalty area and firing home a shot.

Six minutes later Romell Quioto pulled Montreal level, but Toronto regained the lead in the 25th as Pozuelo’s cross found Akinola in front of goal for an easy finish.

Saphir Taider converted a penalty in the 37th to pull Montreal back again after Chris Mavinga’s clumsy challenge on Quioto in the area.

Seconds later Akinola’s second goal — off another pass from Pozuelo — gave Montreal a 3-2 lead that stood at halftime.

Akinola grabbed his third in the 83rd minute, racing free on the right side for a cushion that made Taider’s stoppage time penalty conversion irrelevant.

America’s Akinola now leads all players in the tournament — which is being played in a “bubble” environment without fans at the ESPN Sports Complex at Walt Disney World — with five goals.