ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – If the experiences he has gathered in his career so far have taught Donny Toia anything, it’s that a positive mentality and hard work can go a long way.
As the Montreal Impact fullback gets set for his second season with the club, four years after suiting up for FC Tucson in the PDL, the mentality that carried him back to MLS remains the same.
“I mean, it’s the same thing for me every year,” Toia said recently. “You come in with the right mentality to play the game that I’ve loved to play my entire life, and all I have to do is just put in the hard work and at the end of the day everything else will pay off.”
A former U.S. U18 and U20 international, Toia was Real Salt Lake’s first Homegrown signing in March 2011. Less than a year later, however, he was released, which left the then 20-year-old looking for a new door to open.
Whether it was good fortune, or simply fate, that same year a new club joined the PDL in Toia’s hometown of Tucson.
“It was a great opportunity,” Toia said. “Obviously, going into MLS and then being released, you just have to keep working hard. You have to have that mentality to stay focused the entire time. Obviously being back home for that season helped out a lot, being around my old coach helped me get through everything so far, and just having him and my parents and mentors around me pushing and pushing, at the end of the day it all [paid] off.”
Toia moved up to the USL with Phoenix FC in 2013, and after a strong season for the Wolves made his return to MLS with Chivas USA in 2014, where he became a consistent starter at his new position of full back.
The promise he showed was enough for Montreal to select Toia in the dispersal draft following Chivas USA’s departure from MLS, and he picked up where he left off. Toia became a solid piece in the Impact’s defense as he made 29 starts, and even bagged his first goal in the top flight as Montreal’s second-half surge sent them into the playoffs for the first time in the club’s MLS history.
“In the second half we came out stronger, and we were a great team,” Toia said. “We moved the ball really quick, and if we do that in 2016 we’ll be a great team again, and we’ll be a tough team to beat in the season.”
But with a strong squad returning, and new additions arriving to bolster the Impact’s hopes of another trip to the playoffs this season, Toia’s mantra will remain the same.
“You’re always fighting for the spot, no matter what the position is,” Toia said. “If you’ve been there a year, two years, three years, you’re always fighting for the spot. That’s the way I look at it, and that’s the way I’ll always look at it.”