Could we have just seen the birth of a new dynamic duo for Canada?
Burnley midfielder Scott Arfield and FC Dallas striker Tesho Akindele – starting alongside each other in the midfield for the first time ever – combined on Canada’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan on Friday. Despite being relative newcomers to the national team program, both looked dangerous in attack for coach Benito Floro’s side.
“It was a good test against a good team,” said 27-year-old Arfield, who made his second appearance and first start for Canada since joining the team earlier this year.
“It was all about getting the fitness up and getting up for the mentality of what the coach wants us to do.”
Akindele had Canada’s first good scoring chance of the game, sending a right-footed shot cracking off the Azerbaijan crossbar early in the first half.
Then, in the 43rd minute, Arfield controlled the ball at the top of the penalty area and laid it off to the right for Akindele, who coolly slotted it into the corner for the game’s opening goal.
“It just came back to myself and I sent Tesho in,” said Arfield. “I think it was five passes and then the goal, that’s very pleasing.”
It was Akindele’s second goal in 11 appearances for Canada since committing to his birth country in early 2015. Though the Calgary-born attacker has been used as a “super sub” lately – coming off the bench in five of his last seven national team appearances – Akindele may have turned some heads with his performance against Azerbaijan.
Of course, the link-up between Arfield and Akindele may yet prove to have been a one-off, with Will Johnson out of the lineup and Tosaint Ricketts (whom Floro regularly employs on the right wing) being used as a striker against Azerbaijan.
But for a team that’s traditionally struggled to score goals, having bagged just one in four games in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying, the combination of Arfield and Akindele on the right side of midfield could turn out to be a revelation.