FC Dallas certainly made things interesting in the first round of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft. But despite their maneuvering, Oscar Pareja & Co. still got their man in Colorado School of Mines forward Tesho Akindele.
By the time Dallas pulled the trigger on him, they'd already swapped the fifth pick for No. 10 in a trade with Montreal then immediately moved back up to No. 6 in a deal with the Philadelphia Union. They did so for a player some thought was a reach in the single digits.
Many pre-draft boards had Akindele going later in the first round or even in the second, so hearing his name called at No. 6 was a surprise – most of all for the player himself.
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“Right before the Combine, nobody was talking about me getting picked,” Akindele told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “Definitely not in the first round. Probably not until fourth [round was anybody] talking about me. I just had a couple good games where I played well and my stock just rose, you know, it rose by a lot because of those games. It’s just a surreal feeling.”
Akindele scored 22 goals last season and 76 in his career for the Division II Orediggers, but the Canadian national – who has his US green card and won’t take up an international slot on Dallas’ roster – was already on Pareja’s radar given their close proximity in the Denver area.
Some scouts questioned the competition level Akindele compiled his impressive stats against, but FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo said those concerns were alleviated with the 21-year-old’s performance at the Combine.
“I think that Tesho lit it up in the Combine,” Clavijo told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “Yes, he’s from Division II, but he was playing against Division I players and he did extremely well. Oscar had a lot to do with this because he knew him.”
Clavijo said they targeted Akindele in the draft because they were looking for an attack-minded player that can also play out wide after trading Jackson to Toronto FC earlier in the offseason.
“I’d definitely say I’m more of a speed guy,” Akindele said when asked to describe his playing style. “With my size, I think I can play target forward, but through most of my career I’ve kind of been a speed guy; get behind the defense and get around them on the wings with my speed.”
FCD tried to trade up a spot to New England’s fourth pick – and ESPN’s Taylor Twellman even reported on air that the deal was finalized – but that transaction fell apart at the last second and the Revs took Georgetown midfielder Steve Neumann. Dallas then used their allotted timeout to swing a deal to trade down to No. 10, picking up an international player slot plus an undisclosed amount of allocation money from the Impact.
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While Montreal used their newly obtained pick on Creighton defender Eric Miller, Dallas swung another deal, this time with the Union. FCD sent the allocation money they had just received from Montreal for the right to exchange first-round positions and promptly took Akindele.
“It was all along that we were looking at him,” Clavijo said. “We rated him very highly and he was the top choice for us, absolutely.
“At the end of the day, we drafted the player we were planning to draft from the beginning and we got an international slot pretty much for free."