FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele wins 2014 AT&T Rookie of the Year

FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele was named Major League Soccer's 2014 AT&T Rookie of the Year on Monday, completing a season that saw the 22-year-old rise from NCAA Division II soccer to the national-team radar of both his native Canada and the United States.

Akindele finished the 2014 regular season with seven goals and three assists, starting 18 games and appearing in 26 contests. Although balloting was conducted near the end of the regular season, Akindele went on to play all 270 minutes for FC Dallas in the playoffs, scoring the opening goal in their 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference Knockout Round.

Chicago Fire midfielder Harry Shipp (seven goals, six assists, 26 starts) and D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum (21 starts) were the other two finalists for the award.

Akindele, who played four years at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, is the first player in Dallas club history to win Rookie of the Year. He is the second winner in league history from the Division II ranks, joining 2001 winner Rodrigo Faria, although Faria played just one year at Concordia College and played an additional amateur season before being drafted by the MetroStars.

Akindele was drafted by Dallas with the sixth pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, but played just 15 minutes in two appearances in the first 10 Dallas games of the season. But an injury to playmaker Mauro Diaz forced Dallas to change their style, and Akindele played a key role, seeing time both as a wide player in a 4-2-3-1 formation and up front in a 4-4-2, capable of switching spots during a game.

He enjoyed his greatest statistical success in July and August, scoring six goals in six games from July 4-Aug. 16, highlighted by his hat trick at San Jose on Aug. 16.

He's the first forward to win the award since Kansas City's CJ Sapong in 2011, and just the fourth forward to win the award since it was introduced in 1996.

Akindele was born in Calgary but moved to the United States at eight years old. He has drawn interest from the Canadian national team but declined a recent call-up, and has said he's still deciding if his international future will be with Canada or the US.