Hamilton MIN
Lucas Kschischang

Homegrown Hamilton making the most of his opportunities for Toronto FC

TORONTO – Jordan Hamilton won't stop scoring.

The 23-year-old striker bagged a brace on Friday night as a second half substitute in Toronto FC's 4-3 win over Minnesota Untied FC. Hamilton came on in the 73rd minute, scored the equalizer four minutes later and then the game-winner two minutes after that.

That brings his total output for the 2019 MLS season thus far to three goals in 159 minutes – one every 53 minutes on the pitch.

Put another way, his goals/90 minutes is a jaw-dropping 1.70. Only the Houston Dynamo's Memo Rodriguez (1.65) and LA's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (1.40) come close – his TFC teammates Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo sit at 1.21 and 1.03, respectively.

Add in his strike in the Concacaf Champions League and another for TFC II in their 1-1 draw away to FC Tucson a week earlier, and Hamilton has five goals in as many appearances.

Talk about making the most of one's opportunities.

“That’s something I’ve tried to do a lot this year,” said Hamilton post-match. “With the team switching to one forward – and we have four very talented forwards – whoever is getting the chance and whoever is in the role needs to perform. That’s my goal every time I get on the field this year.”

In his sixth season since singing a Homegrown deal in 2014, Hamilton's continued maturation is in evidence, already matching his previous season-high set in 2016, albeit with 11 fewer appearances.

“As you get older, you grow more confidence; you're more aware of your skill-set, what your strengths and weaknesses are,” explained Hamilton. “I've started to come into my own as a player, my self-belief. I feel comfortable out there.”

Coincidentally enough, Hamilton nearly played a similar role in last season's 4-3 loss in Minnesota, scoring Toronto's third deep in stoppage-time having nearly found the back of the net moments earlier. On the bench as another goal-fest between the two teams ensued, he was anticipating his opportunity as he watched.

“As a sub, I think there are goals in every game if you come in with the right intensity,” said Hamilton. “You're fresh against tired defenders. It's about being proactive. I made some decent runs, tried to get in the box on the end of things.”

His first came when Jonathan Osorio threaded an inch-perfect through-ball down the right side of the area for Hamilton to sweep over Vito Mannone with his right-foot.

“It was a world-class pass. You see that type of pass at the highest level,” praised Hamilton. “All I have to do is shoot and finish. That's making my job extremely easy.”

On the second, Pozuelo lifted a ball behind the back-line for Altidore, who looped his touch over the onrushing keeper towards the open goal. With a defender, Michael Boxall, sizing up the bouncing ball, Hamilton darted in bravely, nodding it over the goal-line.

“I thought he knew [I was behind him] until I saw him just watching the ball the whole way,” recounted Hamilton. “The pitch was a little bit damp, so the bounce didn’t skip towards him. I’m not sure what he was trying to do, I just tried to get there before him once I realized that there was going to be a little bit of time. Thankfully, I got on the end of it.”

He credits the reinforced pitch with an assist on that one.

“It helped me out with second goal, so I'm happy about that,” joked Hamilton. “[The surface] was great, the ball was zipping and there wasn't a lot of bounce. If a pass was played on the ground, it was going to stay on the ground.”

As well as the team structure: “We're set up to score goals. Coach has said many times, 'Forwards are going to reap the benefits of our shape'. Luckily, I'm a forward; hopefully, I can keep reaping the benefits.”

Greg Vanney praised Hamilton doing what he does, coming on to help salvage a victory.

“He knows how to find the front of the goal, he has shown over the years a knack to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Vanney. “Sometimes, he doesn’t have the greatest performances, but he still gets his chances and Jordan just has that nose for the goal. For a night like tonight, that’s perfect.”

But a coach's job is to constantly be putting the next challenge in front of a player, spurring them on.

“For him to get more and more minutes, [he has] to be able to do the right things within the concept of the team for 90 minutes,” stressed Vanney. “That doesn’t necessarily mean scoring goals every minute. It means being able to defend with the group and being able to hold up the play. That’s what we’ll continue to work on with Jordan, but for sure he is showing progress.”

Back in the win column after a first loss of the season, away to Seattle Sounders FC last weekend, Toronto remain unbeaten at home with three wins and a draw, thanks in part to Hamilton's brace, sending a message to the rest of the league.

“Every time a team comes to BMO, they've got to be prepared to have a very difficult game,” cautioned Hamilton. “Our goal is to make this stadium our fortress. I'm confident that we can this year.”