It struck Mason Toye at times Tuesday night how odd it was being on the opposite side of players he occasionally calls teammates.
As a striker, however, scoring goals is how he’s judged, and Toye made his mark twice in a historic evening at Breese Stevens Field.
Toye scored twice in Minnesota United’s 2-1 exhibition victory over Forward Madison FC, the first game in Madison involving a Major League Soccer team.
Through the partnership between the teams, he has played with Forward Madison on loan for seven USL League One games while also getting an occasional call for first-division contests with Minnesota.
“It was a little weird just because I’ve been here quite a bit,” Toye said. “It was weird being in a different locker room and on the opposite side of those guys. But once the whistle blew, it was strictly business.”
Off the field, it was strictly a friendly between the partner sides, especially for Forward Madison managing director Peter Wilt. He spent much of the first half watching alongside Minnesota United sporting director Manny Lagos and director of player personnel Amos Magee.
The environment, with fans close to the field and leaning on the advertising boards behind a goal, reminded them of the early days of one of Minnesota United’s predecessors, the Minnesota Thunder. There, Wilt was the general manager and Lagos and Magee players.
“This setting is beyond expectations,” Wilt said of a crowd that was announced at 4,821, the largest of the inaugural season. “It’s really spectacular having a Major League Soccer team here, a full house, a beautiful weather night, an entertaining game. The fans are passionate and into it.”
Toye, who is scoreless in his seven Forward Madison league appearances, snapped a 1-1 tie in the 80th minute after he was led into the penalty area with a Collin Martin pass. Earlier, he finished off an Eric Miller ground-ball crossing pass in the 23rd minute to break a scoreless tie.
“I was just trying to stay patient and continue to work hard,” Toye said. “I knew the goals were going to come and tonight, thankfully, they did.”
A miscue by Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair led to a Danny Tenorio equalizing goal for Forward Madison in the 57th minute, allowing the already energized crowd a reason to celebrate.
The game was one of the benefits of third-division Forward Madison’s connection to Minnesota United, which includes player loans and the sharing of scouting and technical resources.
As much as friendlies like Tuesday’s bring a sense of pride to the host side, they can be challenging for coaching staffs that are looking to have fresh players for the games that count at the weekend.
Minnesota gave a start to four of the players that have featured for Forward Madison this season: Toye, St. Clair and defenders Carter Manley and Wyatt Omsberg. The Flamingos, in turn, borrowed players from their amateur USL League Two affiliate in Green Bay.
“We feel like now that we’re in a good groove of our weekly games with nothing midweek except our training sessions, we need to try to keep that momentum going,” Forward Madison coach Daryl Shore said.
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Shore brought in seven players from Green Bay — including Madison’s Demitrius Kigeya — and two tryout players to supplement the bench.
The result didn’t count for either team’s standings, but Shore emphasized the game was an opportunity for hungry players.
“We told them this is your chance to show MLS teams what you’ve got,” he said. “I think they did. They came in and they held a good account of themselves.”
Forward Madison midfielder Don Smart (two goals) and forward Josiel Núñez (one goal) were named to the USL League One team of the week after last Saturday’s victory over North Texas SC.
Minnesota United FC 1 1 — 2
Forward Madison FC 0 1 — 1
First half: MU — Toye (Miller), 23:00.
Second half: FM — Tenorio, 57:00. MU — Toye (Martin), 80:00.
Saves: MU (St. Clair) 6, FM (Coulter 1, Barnes 2) 3.
Shots-on goal: MU 9-5, FM 12-7. Corner kicks: MU 5, FM 2.
Yellow card: Kallman, MU, 35:00. Att. — 4,821.
Minnesota United FC — Dayne St. Clair; Carter Manley, Erik Miller, Brent Kallman (Hassani Dotson 61:00), Wyatt Omsberg, Chase Gasper (Miguel Ibarra 61:00); Lawrence Olum, Collin Martin, Rasmus Schuller; Mason Toye, Abu Danladi (Ally Hamis Ng’Anzi 27:00).
Forward Madison FC — Ryan Coulter (Brandon Barnes 46:00); Carl Schneider (Matteo Kidd 46:00), Shaun Russell (Nick Markanich 46:00), Eric Leonard (Zachary Klacnik 46:00), Christian Díaz (Anthony Markanich 30:00); Josiel Núñez (George Morris 46:00), Vital Nizigiyimana (Taylor Pill 61:00), Brandon Eaton (Zaire Bartley 46:00); Paulo Júnior (Josiah Trimming 46:00), Danny Tenorio (Demetrius Kigeya 61:00), Jiro Barriga Toyama (Alex Welch 46:00).