FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele accepts CanMNT call-up because "my whole life I've been a Canadian"

Eligible to represent both the US and Canada national teams – and called up by both in the last year – FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele had a decision to make.

Although he turned down a call-up from Canada in fall 2014 and trained with the US national team in January, the Calgary, Alberta, native has decided to take his talents north of the border, accepting a Canadian call for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Dominica on June 11 and 16.

“At the end of the day, my whole life I’ve been a Canadian, and I’ve always thought about playing for the Canadian national team.” Akindele told MLSSoccer.com. ”So I kind of thought that was my goal always. So that’s what I should go for.”

Akindele's family moved to Colorado at the age of 8, and he attended the Colorado School of Mines before being drafted by FC Dallas in 2014. He did play briefly with the Canadian U-17 national team in 2009, but had no further involvement until his emergence in MLS.

Aside from his native ties, one reason the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year ultimately chose Canada over the US was the fact that he will have more opportunity to shine, given the depth of the US, as compared to Canada.

Regardless of the reasons, Akindele said he is approaching the call-up like he does any FC Dallas practice, knowing he has to earn his minutes. Like any player that is granted the opportunity to represent his country, the 23-year-old is elated to fulfill a dream.

“It’s exciting. It’s an honor,” Akindele said. “It’s something you dream about since you’re a little kid, so it’s really exciting that it’s finally come true.”

Akindele's international call-up is the 18th already this season for FC Dallas, but he is the youngest member of FC Dallas called up to a full national team, born some three weeks after club teammate Moisés Hernandez (Guatemala).

“I think he’s a kid that’s embraced the responsibility of the first-division level. The game has rewarded him,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said of Akindele. “[It is] putting his name on the international stage, which is not easy for a [young player]. I’m proud of him. It’s demanding, but he knows it’s a long journey. It’s the first of many, I hope.”

Pareja played internationally for Colombia, including the 1991 Copa América. Although his international experience came prior to his time in MLS, which began in 1998, his experience may prove beneficial as Pareja helps his young charge cope with a new level of play.

“I can’t tell you how big and how impactful it is for a soccer player to put on your international team’s jersey and play internationally,” Pareja said. “It brings different components. It brings different elements that make you grow.”

But while Pareja lauded his versatile forward for the call-up, he was quick to acknowledge how important it is for Akindele to seize the moment.

“You either grow or you disappear from the game,” Pareja added. “If you cannot compete internationally when you have the opportunity, that means you’re a middle-class player. So once you have the opportunity to represent your country, that means a lot.”