FRISCO, Texas—Atlanta United looked set to extend their MLS-best record on American Independence Day at Toyota Stadium, but a Canadian stepped forward to ruin the Five Stripes' celebrations as Tesho Akindele scored a two-minute double to maintain FC Dallas' unbeaten home record in 2018.
A Josef Martinez brace appeared to have swayed the game in Atlanta's favor but for Akindele's late heroics. The 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year subbed in for Victor Ulloa to take a place on the left wing for FCD as Oscar Pareja shifted his front four around in search of a creative spark.
"Even though we were losing, this was one of the best games we’ve played all year," Akindele said. "And just energy from everyone on the team. You see people like Maxi [Urruti], he has played every game almost this season and he’s still running as hard as he can on every play. People like [Roland] Lamah, people like [Michael] Barrios, [Carlos] Gruezo, all of our players are still just giving it all they got and that energy is contagious. I try to come on and add to that."
Akindele staked his place in club history during the 2015 playoffs in similar fashion. In the Western Conference semifinal against the Seattle Sounders, Akindele slotted in late on the wing and gave FC Dallas an 87th-minute lead, then scored a penalty kick as FC Dallas won.
"Oscar told me when I come in I have to make a difference, the game can't just stay the same," Akindele said. "That's what he's been telling me this week, so I tried to make sure once I came in I could change the game."
The 26-year-old did just that as he collected a back heel off of Urruti in the 86th minute. Tesho met the ball at full flight and bore down on the Atlanta box before slotting the ball under Brad Guzan.
If the first goal was athleticism at its finest, Akindele's second was nothing more than strong-willed and opportunistic.
Ryan Hollingshead floated a header across the box from an 88th-minute Dallas corner. The ball landed at the feet of Matt Hedges, whose shot was blocked by Jeff Larentowicz. Before the veteran defender could react, Akindele slid in to force the ball home and give FC Dallas its 10th win of the season and a three-point lead at the top of the Western Conference.