Who is Toronto FC’s newest signing Hugo Mbongue?

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September 14, 2022
Michael Singh
September 14, 2022

Toronto FC have inked a deal with Hugo Mbongue Tuesday, signing the top prospect to a homegrown contract through 2025 with an option for 2026.

The 18-year-old striker originally joined the TFC Academy in 2018 after spending his youth years playing for North Toronto Nitros – and has caught the eye of many. In fact, there was a general consensus that Mbongue (along with 17-year-old defender Adam Pearlman) was the top Toronto FC prospect not playing for the first team.

He’s next up and there’s a legitimate reason to be excited.

“Hugo’s long-term potential was apparent when he first joined the Academy in 2018 and he continued to excel in our training environment and the various competitions he attended,” said TFC Academy Director Anthony Capotosto.

“Hugo is a talented young striker who has worked hard to improve his overall game,” added Toronto FC Head Coach and Sporting Director Bob Bradley in a press release. “We look forward to seeing Hugo’s progress in his professional career and are confident that he’s going to become a player who can help the first team for many years.”

That’s high praise from both Bradley and Capotosto, but for good reason.

Mbongue was the youngest player invited by Bradley to first-team training camp in Austin, Texas this past offseason, something the TFC head coach touched on when speaking to media back in June.

“Hugo did well in preseason, he picked up ideas quickly,” Bradley said. “He’s a very interesting young attacker … so we’re excited. Young player with a lot of potential, young player who’s a real threat in terms of how he can get towards goal.”

After signing an MLS NEXT Pro contract with Toronto FC II on May 27, Mbongue went on a tear, scoring four goals while tallying five assists in just 14 appearances for the Young Reds. His nine total goal contributions this season ranks second on the team, despite being the second-youngest player on the TFC II roster.

Those who have kept tabs on Mbongue weren’t surprised to see him succeed; the young forward has produced results at every level he has played at so far.

In 2019, he led the U-15 Academy squad to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) National Championship in San Diego, California. He was awarded the USSDA U-15 Golden Boot after scoring four goals during the team’s run to the championship including two in the dramatic come-from-behind finale against Los Angeles FC.

Earlier in 2019, he also led the U-15 squad to the Generation adidas Cup Finals and was the tournament’s Golden Boot winner in Frisco, Texas.

Hometown Goal Scorer

Growing up in East York, Ontario, Mbongue has only had his sights set on breaking through with his hometown club.

“I was happy to finally sign with the club, and my friends and family were all proud and happy for me, so it was a good feeling – long time coming,” Mbongue told The Parleh in June. “It’s what I felt like was the next step in my development to become a pro.”

Mbongue describes himself as a goal scorer, who has good hold-up and link-up play, and likes to make runs in behind.

He says he models himself after three of the world’s best strikers: FC Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.

“Lewandowski just his movements in the box, his relentlessness in the box,” said Mbongue. “Kane, more his quality of finish. I’d say nine times out of 10, he always picks the correct finish, and that’s something I try to look at and emulate. And Benzema, just his overall game, dropping between the lines, combining, so those are three strikers that I look at.”

Mbongue is the younger brother of former Toronto FC young gun Ralph Priso, who was traded to the Colorado Rapids in a July deal for Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye.

Asked to describe his younger brother as a player, Priso emphasized that he’s lethal in front of goal.

“Smart striker,” Priso said. “Could improve his link-up play a little bit, but I think if he gets a chance, nine times out of 10 it’s in the back of the net. I think if he works hard, improves what he needs to improve, and just stays focused, I think he could play at a very high level for a long time.”

“Good player, big dude,” added Jayden Nelson, who has known Mbongue for most of his life. “You wouldn’t even think he’s [18] years old. He’s been training with us since preseason and he has an eye for goal.”

Future Outlook

At the international level, Mbongue represented the Canada Under-20 Men’s National Team earlier this year, making three appearances at the 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Honduras.

For the young forward, he relished the opportunity to compete in the same tournament as a few Canadian national team stars that are now plying their trade overseas.

“Seeing those guys make the jump shows that I could be the next,” said Mbongue. “Seeing a guy like Jonathan David – we play the same position, and I know that he was on the [Canadian] U-20 team as well – he was at the same point that I am right now at one time – so I know if I keep working, I could get to a club like Lille, or Club Brugge like Tajon, or one day further down the line Bayern like Alphonso, so I know that I just have to keep working and one day it might come.”

Mbongue may get a look with the first team in Toronto FC’s final three games down the stretch, but will likely finish out the year with Toronto FC II, as the Young Reds on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in club history, and playoff experience – playing an important role in meaningful matches – will only benefit his development.

The MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs will begin the weekend of September 23 and culminate with MLS NEXT Pro Cup on October 8: Other first-team players eligible for the TFC II postseason are Jordan Perruzza, Kadin Chung, and Themi Antonoglou.

Those interested in getting a look at TFC’s newest signing, he’ll be part of the Toronto FC II matchday squad Wednesday vs. Inter Miami CF II (7:00 pm ET | Watch Here)

(Cover Photo via Toronto FC - Lucas Kschischang)
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