TORONTO – If Tesho Akindele was having any doubts about his decision to commit to Canada, they are now long gone.
The 23-year-old Calgary native was instrumental for the national team in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Dominica on Tuesday, scoring Canada’s first goal and setting up teammate Tosaint Ricketts on a silver platter for the third.
“It was a great feeling,” Akindele told reporters after the game. “I feel like there’s nothing better than scoring your first [international] goal in front of the home crowd. I could feel everybody’s energy. It was a perfect day for me.”
This was Akindele’s first training camp with the Canadian team, after he’d spurned a call-up last November when interest came from the US national team. But the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year feels absolutely content with where he is at this moment.
“I love the guys, I love the team, loved the crowd tonight,” said Akindele. “I couldn’t be happier about my decision.”
As would be expected for any player coming into a new team, Akindele was nervous in Thursday’s first leg down in Dominica. But after talking to head coach Benito Floro and some of his teammates, he got his nerves in check for the second leg – and it showed on the field.
“It was a new group of people, my first time playing on the international stage, I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “This game, everybody was like, ‘Just relax, play your game.’ That’s what Benito told me, the other players. I think I relaxed a little bit.”
He even appeared to develop a bit of chemistry with fellow Albertan Ricketts; at halftime, the two talked about Akindele feeding a ball into the goal area for the Edmonton native to pounce on. In the 52nd minute, that’s how it played out.
“[Ricketts] talked to me about it; he said, ‘Beat your guy down the line, and I’ll be there far post,’” said Akindele. “It happened right away in the second half, so, just like we planned it.”
And just as the Canadian team had planned it – or, at least, hoped it – they can now move forward knowing that they have a confident and comfortable Akindele firmly on board.
“I think it has been good for us, the decision of Tesho to come here,” Floro said after Tuesday’s game. “We called him to come to these official games because from now we can work a lot together. We believe in the player, and now he believes in us.”