FRISCO, Texas – With a run of big goals and key assists in the past few games, FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele has pushed his way to the top of the rookie scoring charts and into the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award.
“Right now it’s too early to talk about stuff like that,” Akindele told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m just trying to focus on my personal performances right now.”
With an assist on the winning goal in a gut-check win over Real Salt Lake on Friday night, Akindele now has seven goals and two assists on the year, comparable to Harry Shipp’s six goals and five assists for the Chicago Fire. The two will face off next Saturday as FC Dallas travels to Bridgeview for their only meeting with the Fire (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“I saw him two times last year and then right before I came to Texas this winter,” Pareja said. “Immediately I saw something natural there. When he is in front of goal, he acts very naturally. He scores goals. That is what struck me first.”
“You always have high expectations when you make a pick or make a trade,” he continued. ”I have high expectations of this kid and he is not letting us down. At the same time, he knows I am asking for more because he has more in his bag.”
Akindele isn't letting the success go to his head. This is, he hopes, only the start.
“It definitely shows your character, how you react when things are going good,” Akindele said. “I haven’t reached the goals that I have set for myself. I still have higher aspirations than one good season or one good game. I don’t want to let that derail me from having a long, successful career. Just got to keep pushing.
“I just want to make sure my career lasts as long as possible and to do that, I need to continue to score goals throughout my career and improve on everything in my game so I can always help any team I am playing for.”
If that career continues along this same trajectory, it won't be long before he's faced with a national team decision. Akindele was born in Calgary, Canada, and represented the Canadian youth teams, but he's also eligible for Nigeria through his father.
“The Canadian team has contacted FC Dallas and let them know they are interested in me, which is really good,” Akindele said. “Unfortunately we have some club stuff coming up so I can’t go to the camp they have coming up, but I’m really honored to be contacted by the national team. It feels great.”
According to Sportsnet.ca, Canadian head coach Benito Floro confirmed that Akindele will not be attending the upcoming camp in preparation for Canada's September 9 match against Jamaica. But when asked about which nation he would represent, Akindele introduced a third option that could present itself soon enough.
“I am about to get my US citizenship, hopefully within a month or so. I’ve been going through that process," he said. “I just kind of want to focus on my development and make sure I am good enough to play for any of those teams.”
Kevin Lindstrom covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com.